David and Absalom - The love of a father and rebellion of a son

King David was self-absorbed with his self and neglected his parenting responsibilities. Let’s pick-up the story in 2 Samuel. One of the   saddest stories in the Bible. Father and Son, never understand each other, never drew close and ended in heartbreak.
   Tamar was raped, David should have intervened and punished his son, and he didn't. When Absalom killed Amnon, David should have intervened and done something to punish Absalom, and he didn't. Now, after this period of time of separation, David is coaxed into bringing Absalom back together. He yearns for his son, he wants his fellowship and he knows that he ought to do something to punish him for his sin but he's paralyzed again because of his own conduct, and so, as a halfway attempt at punishing Absalom, he brings him back to Jerusalem and he won't talk to him for two years. They pass in the same city and they never communicate, their faces never meet. And I would say to you that David would have been better off to have left Absalom in Geshur, because during that two-year period of time, if I read the story correctly, there developed a growing spirit of rebellion in Absalom’s heart that was already there in seed form, and during that period of time, Absalom got more and more rebellious against his father and he dreamed up a plan to literally steal the kingdom away from his dad. It's hard to believe, but it's true. We read about his revolt or his rebellion in the 15th chapter. The 15th chapter tells us that Absalom decided that he wanted more than anything else to be king, why shouldn't he be king? David was getting older, Absalom was a charismatic figure, handsome to look at, apparently, he was able, in many respects, to draw people after him in the same way that David had done in his younger years. So, in the 15th chapter, we read that it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses and fifty men to run before him and Absalom rose up early and stood beside the way of the gate-- and I want to explain to you what's going on here-- and it was so that when any men that had a controversy that came to king David for judgement then Absalom called on to him and said: "What city do you come from?" and he said: "Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel" and Absalom said to him, "See, thy matters are good and right, but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee."

   What happened was that Absalom found his place in the way, which was like the court, where people came to have matters settled when they had disputes with each other, Absalom’s kind of set up his presence in the court and when people came into the city of Jerusalem to get an audience with king David to have some matter settled, Absalom would get there first, and he would say: "Where do you come from?", they would say such and such a place. "What's your problem?", and they would tell him their problems, he'd say "You know that is really an important issue and I need to tell you, it's too bad that king David hasn't put anybody in the way to help you with your problem. It's really too bad." He was undercutting David, he is disloyal to David. Now, watch what happens, he has got a suggestion and Absalom said, "Moreover, oh, that I were made judge in the land! That every man who has any suitor cause might come unto me, I would do him justice." And it was so that when any man came nigh to him, to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand and took him and kissed him. Do you see what happened? Absalom has moved into the vacuum created by David’s family problems, and his growing age, and his frailty, and all the things that are going on in the kingdom. Absalom moved into the vacuum created in David's kingdom and he began to ingratiate himself to the people. They would come to see David and he'd say "Listen, David really doesn't care about you. He's too busy with everything else. You know, if he cared about you, he would be here now! Listen, I'll hear what you have to say and I care. I'll tell you something, if I were the king, it would be different around here." I want to say to you, Absalom's little plot has been replayed over and over again in businesses, and in churches all over the world. There have probably been more church splits with the Absalom syndrome than perhaps any other... And if you read on, you'll discover, "And so it was that when any man came he took him and kissed him, and on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgement", here's the key phrase: "So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel." He stole their hearts.  Right there in the presence of David, his own son stole the hearts of the people of Israel, and if your read verses 7 through 12 you will discover that having now gotten the people's ear, Absalom came to his father and said: "Listen, while I was living with my mother-in-law, I made a vow in Hebron and I need to go up there to pay that vow. Is that alright?” and that was his exit, he got out of the city, and he went to Hebron, and two hundred men followed him. Notice, in verse 12, David's counselor, Ahithophel, from the city, offered sacrifices and the last phrase of verse 12 says: "And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom." Do you see what he has done? He has moved in under the leadership of his own father, he's stolen the hearts of the people; he's put together a coup, a plot, to overthrow David's leadership and to come in under it and take the kingdom away from his own dad. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine the pain that David felt? Listen, any of us who have been in leadership somewhere along the way we'll go through some throws of what it feels like to have people who are disloyal or whatever. I thank God that we do not have that in this church, we have got the most loyal, faithful, supportive staff I have ever been with in my life, and I don't know what I would do without them, I don't fear them being with any of the people in this church because I trust them, and they're loyal; but I've had the experience in other places, where that hasn't been true and it hurts, it hurts. Can you imagine how much more it would hurt if the person who was doing it was your own flesh and blood, your own son?

   Now, Absalom has a following. He has more people loyal to him than David has loyal to him. Absalom now is in Hebron, he's getting all these people together and the word comes back to David, and I want you to notice what happens in verse 13. There came a messenger to David saying: "The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom", and David believed it. He knew it was true, and to make a long story short, David gathered up the few faithful men that were still loyal to him, and he evacuated Jerusalem. He got out of town. He said: "Listen, if we don't get out of here, Absalom is going to come down here with all of his people and we're finished. We're dead." So, now, what we have-- remember what it said in the 12th chapter? That he was going to rise up, in division in his own house. We've got Absalom and the men of Israel over here, and we've got David and his few loyal followers over here, and they're enemies. Father against son. Son against father. Now, we're going to jump over to the 18th chapter, and bring closer to the story. During the period of time that Absalom has gathered the forces of Israel around him, David has strengthened his hand with his loyal followers. In the back of his mind David knew that the day would eventually come when he would have to go out and fight against the forces of Absalom. He didn't want to do that, but he knew that that was the only thing he could do to be before God, God's person, and preserve the integrity of the kingdom.

   So, he was preparing his people, and in the 18th chapter we come to that awful moment when David's army is going to confront the army of Absalom. David numbered the people that were with him, and he set up captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them. Literally, he had three generals. He had Joab, and Abishai, who was Joab's brother, and Ithai theGittite. He divided his army into three sections, and put those three generals over the three sections of the army, and David was going to go forth and go to war with them, and they said: "Thou shall not go forth, for if we flee away they will not care for us, neither if half of us die they will care for us, but now, thou are worth ten thousand of us. Therefore, it is better that you succor us out of the city" and the king said unto them “What seem at you best, I will do" and the king stood by the gate side and all the people came out by hundreds and by thousands. They said: "David, we'd like for you to go with us, but listen, if something happens to one of us, it's no big deal, but, David, you're worth ten thousand to us and we don't want anything to happen to you." He has got a group of loyal folks, doesn't he? What an encouraging thing that must have been to his heart. The armies are marching out of the gate - now, remember, they're going out to fight against David's son and David's son's army, and as they leave, I want you to catch the next vignette of David's heart as a father. Listen to this.

   And the king, verse 5, commanded Joab, and Abishai, and Ithai saying: "Deal gently, for my sake, with the young men, even with Absalom." And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom. I view it in my mind, size the armies are all marching out of the city, and they're just about ready to leave and David says: "Oh, by the way, before you leave" and he gets up on one of those wooden pulpits and he said: "One last thing," and I see the tears coming down his face, "Don't hurt Absalom. Whatever you do, whatever else you have to do, promise me, that you won't hurt Absalom." Even though he was a rebellious son who had created untold grief and agony for this king, David could not stop loving him, because as a parent, his love was unconditional, no matter what he had done.

   Well, the scripture tells us that there is a reward for Absalom, and in the verses that we have before us, we read that the people went out into the field, verse 6, against Israel and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim. The people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter, that day, of 20,000 men. Absalom lost 20,000 men in that battle, and the battle was scattered over the face of all the country and its evident there was something supernatural going on here because the Scripture says that the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured. The wood is a reference to the forest. Though we don't know all the details, we understand that something happened in the forest as they were fighting in the dense forest, that that forest took more lives of Absalom's men than the swords did, that were leveled against them. There was a great killing that day, and twenty thousand people died. Absalom's army was decimated.

   Absalom met the servants of David, and Absalom rode upon a mule, and as he was running, the mule ran under a thick bowel of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth, and the mule that was under him went away. I have to remind you that Absalom had six and two-thirds pounds of hair on his head. That's not a good thing to have when you're riding through the woods. Absalom is just galloping through the woods on his mule and he goes under the low branch of a tree, and his hair catches in the tree. Absalom stops dead still and the mule keeps going. There, the poor guy is hanging between heaven and earth, dangling there, like a little yo-yo. The man who would take the kingdom is now hanging between heaven and earth on a tree. Somebody has written a more melancholy and tragic spectacle can scarcely be imagined than Absalom dangling from the bowels of that tree, deserted by his friends, abandoned by God. Now the cup of his iniquity was spilled. The servant came to Joab and said: "I saw Absalom hanging on a tree." "So why didn't you put him out of his misery?", and he said: "I couldn't do that. That's the king's son. I couldn't take his life." Joab says: "Well, I am not afraid to do it." I have a feeling that just about this time, Joab, who was like David's administrative assistant, he had had it up to here with David's kids, you know? He had just had it up to here.

   He said: “Look, I've listened to the boss all through this time. I've done everything he has asked me to do, but I've had had it with Absalom. If he's not going to take care of the boy, I'm going to take care of him" He didn't ask David's permission. He didn't check it out. He just went out there, and he took some darts with him, and when he got to where Absalom was hanging on the tree, he took him out, in the heart, with the darts. Then, the servants of Joab cut him down, finished him off, buried him in a pit, and covered him up with stones. Thus endeth Absalom.

   Well, there was only one thing left to do, people, and that was to go back and tell King David what had happened. I don't think anybody volunteered for that assignment, but there was one who came and told him. The Bible says, in chapter 18, as you get to the end of the chapter, that the one who reported it to David was a man by the name of Cushi, verse 32. The king said to the Cushi: "Is the young man Absalom safe?", and he couldn't really bring himself to give him a straight out answer, but he answered him this way, and Cushi answered: "The enemies of my lord, the king, and all that rise up against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is." In other words, "David, I could wish that all your enemies, and anybody that's ever tried to hurt you, be as Absalom is right now," and David got the message. Notice again, another vignette of David as a father. The king was much moved, and he went up to the chamber over the gate, and he wept, and as he wept, thus he said: "Oh, my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom. Would God I had died for thee, oh Absalom, my son, my son."

   You might say: "Pastor, what is in this? What do we learn from this?" Well, I think we learned two things, and I'm just going to wrap it all up with this long story, and we've covered six chapters. Number one, there's a story here for all of us to listen to as children. You know, the Bible has some strong things to say about a son's relationship with his parents, a daughter's relationship with her parents... I want to tell you something, rebellion against parents is fraught with agony, and pain, and hurt, not just for your parents, and I can promise you they will hurt, but it is going to hurt you in the end. You may not be hanged by your hair from a tree, even though your parents may like to do that.

   You will be hurt in the process. The Bible says that we are to honor our parents, that the days of our lives be long. The Bible says that a child who rebels against his parents will be hurt deeply in the process. There are twelve proverbs that say that in the Old Testament. You rebel against your parents; you are playing a game you cannot win. You may have an upper hand for a period of time, and get done what you wanted to get done with your rebellion, but your parents are going to hurt and in the end, you are going to be hurt. You cannot prosper and rebel against your parents; it's not possible, it's absolutely impossible for that to happen. Some of you kids here today right now are in the midst of that, and you think that you can do your own thing, and you don't care what your parents what your parents say, and you don't care what they want, and you're going to do your own way, no matter what. Well, you're in the process of hurting yourself deeply. You can't win that game.

   There's a message here, not only for children, there's a message here for Christians. You know what I think of when I read this story? I think that David, in his relationship with Absalom, is like God in is relationship with me. If you follow the story carefully, you read it again today when you get a chance, Absalom never pursued reconciliation with his father one time, he never made one step toward his dad, and he never did anything to make it right. In the midst of all that pain and pressure, it was David who kept going after Absalom, and kept trying to get him to come back. It was David whose heart yearned after his son. It was David who cared. It was David who kept going after Absalom, and trying to bring him back, trying to restore him to the family. You know, that's what God does to us. I used to hear the song "I Found What I Wanted When I Found the Lord" until I discovered that it's not even a true song. Most of us, in the initial process, never were looking for God; he came after us, didn't he? When you've been out of fellowship with God and you're sinning against God, most of the time, you don't go after God, he comes after you. That's why sometimes I hear people say, "Wow! You know, he never confessed it until he was confronted!" Well, why was he confronted? Because God just kept going after him, going after him until finally he got him, and confronted him... And then the restoration took place.

   I think about everything that Absalom did to his dad, to destroy him, to ruin him, to hurt him, and bring pain to his life, and in the end it never changed one thing about David's love for his son. Parental love is unconditional if it's godly parental love, and so is God's love unconditional. He loves us. So, my friend, I don't know what you've done against God, or what you feel you have done that's so bad it can't be forgiven, I can promise you one thing, if you're a child of God, God loves you and he's not going to ever quit loving you. He's not going to stop loving you, no matter what you do, and he's going to keep coming after you until you finally give up, and he's got you back. He is that kind of a God.

   The last thought that, surely, is evident in this passage, and it's a sobering one for all of us, this is not a funny message, really. The last thought is that Sin has two sons, doesn't it? One is Death, and the other is Sorrow, and those two sons of Sin will never be aborted, they live out their full lives, and they pay increasingly costly dividends. David's sinned, and he was forgiven, and God restored him, took away the guilt, but when he went through that process, he set in motion that chain of events we talked about, and now it's the death of a baby, and the death of a woman's purity, and the death of Amnon, and the death of Absalom, and in the midst of all those deaths, sorrow upon sorrow upon sorrow. The Bible says the soul that sinneth shall die, the wages of sin is death, there is a way that seem right unto a man, but the end of there up are the ways of death. Sin when it is finished bringeth forth death. Sin always has one son called Death. It always has another one called Sorrow. You can't win at disobeying God. Men and women, I really believe with all my heart that that's why these things are here in the Book, not just so we can get up and tell an interesting story, but so that reading that story, we come away from it and we say: "Okay, now, I understand what happened with Absalom, and David, and all those things, but what is the meaning of all this?" The meaning of it is God put that in here, so that when we would read it, we would say: "I don't want to go down that road. That's not where I want to head. That's too costly a journey, I can't afford it. I will not take it." And we will walk with God.

David and Absalom - The love of a father and rebellion of a son