Rev. Katherine Todd
2 Samuel 15:10, 13-14 and 18:5-15, 31-33
So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
2 Samuel 15:10, 13-14 and 18:5-15, 31-33
Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then shout: Absalom has become king at Hebron!”
A messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom.” Then David said to all his officials who were with him at Jerusalem, “Get up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Hurry, or he will soon overtake us, and bring disaster down upon us, and attack the city with the edge of the sword.”
The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom.
So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.
Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.
A man saw it, and told Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying: For my sake protect the young man Absalom! On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” He took three spears in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak. And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.
Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.”
The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
We looked at David’s life last week and how he behaved with Bathsheba.
This week we see his son Absalom fighting to overtake the throne from his father. And we watch as Absalom is mercilessly killed by the servants of David.
Can you imagine the heartbreak? This was David’s own son. His beloved son. In the days leading up to Absalom’s death, David gives clear instructions in the hearing of the people that his leaders should be kind to him by dealing gently with his son Absalom. Yes, Absalom has caused all this pain and strife and death, but please be gentle.
And so when Absalom’s donkey walks under a great Oak tree with thick branches, Absalom’s head gets caught in the branches causing him to become stuck in the tree while his donkey walks on. Caught in mid-air, Absalom is sighted by David’s. The first one to see him goes to his general and reports the sighting. The general asks whether or not he killed Absalom, and the soldier replies that indeed he could not and would not, even if he’d been paid a large, large sum. But his general Joab, put off by this soldier’s hesitancy, thrusts 3 spears into Absalom’s chest while he is stuck in that tree, still alive. Then 10 of Joab’s men surround Absalom and kill him. They throw his body in a pit and cover it with rocks.
This is Absalom’s end.
And so the news comes to David. He quickly wants to know how his son Absalom fairs. The messenger speaks of good tidings, as this usurper has been subdued! But all David can hear is how his son is now dead, and he grieves with all his heart, wishing he had instead died in Absalom’s place.
Absalom had led an uprising in which tens of thousands had lost their lives.
Absalom had threatened the life of his own father.
And yet his father’s love for him remains.
So different than the snapshot we get of David taking Uriah’s wife Bathsheba in a moment of willful, rebellious desire, here we see David, a father mourning for the life of his son.
Here we see David broken in grief. Here we see David exhibiting the heart of God for his child.
For God loves each one of us like this.
We have dealt treacherously with God and one another.
Our actions betray our disbelief. Our actions display our own willful rebellion against God.
Our inaction while the blood of the innocent is spilled, while the vulnerable are exploited, while the stranger is abused…are sins against our God.
WE have rebelled against our heavenly Father. We have spat on our divine Mother.
With the left hand we bless while with the right hand we curse.
We bless in public while we curse in secret.
WE have sinned against our God in ways that are deserving of our death.
And yet our God wished to take our place – that it would be God’s life instead of ours – that we might turn away from evil and do good.
And so it was.
God came to us in the form of a little babe.
God came to us in the wisdom of a pre-teen who’d left his family to go to the temple.
God came to us in the strength of a healer whose hands would raise the dead.
God came to us in the power of a man who stopped storms with a word.
God came to us in the words of the one who declared,
“Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and sin no more…”
God came to us in the blood and sweat and last breaths of the one who would be nailed to a tree, brutally murdered, unjustly, to satisfy the will of a mob.
God came to us.
Emmanuel. God with us.
With the heart of a Father, broken for the loss of his daughter.
With the heart of a Mother, in anguish over her wayward son.
God came to us.
What David could not do – protecting his son from the just anger of his servants…
What David could not do – taking the place of his son, that his son might live!…
God has done for us. God has taken our place, that we might live again, setting aside the sin that clings so closely and running the race that has been set before us, in a righteousness we could never earn but only receive.
Our earthly parents may or may not be able to love like this. It is extraordinarily hard, especially in some situations.
But our God loves us relentlessly. Our God is calling us out of death and into life. And our God has made a way for us to come back home,
May we all,
Know the extraordinary, unsurpassable love of God for us
And let it changeus
From the inside out
That we may “be
imitators of God,
as beloved children,
2 and live in love,
as Christ loved us[a]
and gave himself up for us,
a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”