Pretend for a moment that you have been the target of a major rebellion in which you, the rightful king have been removed from your throne. The rebellion has divided the nation and brought death and ruin for so many. Ahead of you is what very well could be the final battle to put down the rebellion and to reclaim your throne. As your armies prepare for battle, you give final orders to your captains concerning the leader of the rebellion.
How would you act?
What orders would you give?
What if the leader of the rebellion was your own dear son?
His seat of authority as king granted him the right to render swift and terrible judgment against the rebellion, even against its leader Absalom, David’s son. And yet, while still king David responded with the heart of a grieving father and ordered his men to deal gently with Absalom for David’s sake. Whatever judgment would ultimately need to be levied against his son, David wanted his son to be brought home. He wanted to see him, to kiss him and to throw his arms around him.
And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom. 2 Samuel 18:5
His words however were not heeded, though clearly they were understood as the bible reveals. A man came across Absalom helplessly caught up in a low hanging tree. When he reported to Joab what he saw, he was rebuked for not having put a spear through his heart.
10. And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak. 11. And Joab said unto the man who told him, And, behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle. 12. And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king’s son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom. 2 Samuel 18:10-12
Take note what the man said to Joab: in our hearing the king charged saying beware that no one touch the young man Absalom.
Joab ignored the reminder of what the king said, defiantly heading off with 10 of his men to where Absalom was still trapped, thrusting 3 spears into his heart. His actions were followed by the other 10 who also thrust their weapons into the now lifeless body.
As you can imagine, David was pacing back and forth waiting for the report from the battlefield. When Cushi returned with the report David really didn’t want to hear, that his son was dead, David was deeply moved as he openly wept and cried.
And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! 2 Samual 18:33
Curious eyes fell upon the weeping king accompanied with hushed whispers, one of which made it back to the ears of Joab.
1. And it was told Joab, Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom. 2. And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son. 3. And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle. 4. But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son! 2 Samuel 19:1-4
David was a father, but when it came to the kingdom he must act as king first became the reasoning in Joab’s mind as he mulled over the report. There was no room to weep for a son who brought the kingdom to the edge of disaster. Believing the king needed correction, Joab immediately went into the presence of David and laid it on the line.
5. And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines; 6. In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well. 7. Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the LORD, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now. 2 Samuel 19:5-7
Joab was the commanding general of the armies and had a very close and trusted position with the king. Concerned with the safety and security of his people, and facing the enemy countless times on the battlefield put Joab squarely on the side of justice and the law, allowing little room for grace and mercy. David in his grief went out to meet his people and did not react or respond to Joab immediately. Later on, in verse 13, we see that David replaces Joab as commander with his son Amasa.
The rigidness of the law cuts to the heart of the matter, separating one side from another. Certainly the actions of Absalom demanded swift and terrible judgment to be meted out by the hand of the king, and yet David relented. The love for his son rose above the law. This was the grace of David.
This is the grace of God.
In the movie The Grace Card, the pastor is speaking to his congregation about the problems in his city. “No justice no peace,” the pastor said. “I hear that every single day like justice is going to change hearts. It’s not justice we need or even want. It’s grace! It’s forgiveness!”
While you have never been a king or queen facing a rebellion as David did, perhaps you have faced rebellion and division when one of your children brings unimaginable heartbreak upon you and the kingdom of your family. Perhaps your heart endlessly groaned as you tearfully watched the destructive path your child took. Taking every effort to intercede and protect your wayward child, perhaps the day came when you cried as David did—would God I had died for you.
That is your heart as a father or a mother.
That is the heart of the Father of heaven toward you and I and all the other rebellious hearts of this world. With a trembling hand of love, the Father reached down from heaven as he watched our rebellious path bringing so much pain, suffering and death. And make no mistake, the law clear on the matter. I am guilty. You are guilty. The holiness and the righteousness of God speaks from Joab’s lips and we deserved justice. But what we need is grace. And with his hand, God offered grace through his Son as he offered Jesus on our behalf. With Jesus, God offered himself—as God I will die for you.