There is nothing more complicated in all of God's creation than the heart of a man. In the passage before us, a messenger brought good news, which the people wanted desperately to hear. It was with the same anticipation that the Cushite expected King David to respond with gladness of heart. For surely, God spared the king's life, and the battle won. However, the king's response was not of a sinful, self-centered man, but a man of God.
A BEARER OF GOOD TIDINGS?
"Behold, the Cushite arrived, and the Cushite said, “Let my lord the king receive good news, for the LORD has freed you this day from the hand of all those who rose up against you.” Then the king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And the Cushite answered, “Let the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be as that young man!” (2 Samuel 18:31, 32)
An Unexpected Response
"The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33)
"Then it was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourns for Absalom.” The victory that day was turned to mourning for all the people, for the people heard it said that day, “The king is grieved for his son.” So the people went by stealth into the city that day, as people who are humiliated steal away when they flee in battle. The king covered his face and cried out with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 19:1-4)
A Commander with a Cold Heart
Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines, by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. “Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the LORD, if you do not go out, surely not a man will pass the night with you, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.” (2 Samuel 19:1-7)
Sometimes all the rationale in the world cannot explain a godly response. A godly response is a way of death and sinful men do not die to a self-centered way of life. Therefore, the two approaches are entirely incompatible.
David was under siege by his son Absalom. His life was in danger and the lives of his people. Nonetheless, when David received word of his victory and his son's loss of life, all he could feel was his failure. His daughter's rape, Absalom's vengeance, and another son's death. Bad blood remained, justice not satisfied, forgiveness never offered. Once again, David was crushed under the weight of his sin.
As king, David was a man after God's own heart. In the passage that follows, the people heard of David's cries; they understood his victories in days past. David's contrite heart caused the heart of the people to be broken also. They knew that they followed after Absalom, and by so doing rejected king David. David could not condemn any man on that day; he was far too broken.
As a husband and a father, David failed in many ways. Joab could never understand such tears.
My dear readers, if the Christian lives long enough, he comes to understand the sorrow of brokenness. Corey Ten Boom, suffering in a concentration camp, had to acknowledge the sinfulness of her own unforgiving heart for a brother and sister killed unjustly by the hands of cruel Nazies. Does it make sense? It can only make complete sense at the foot of the cross.
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