Introduction: David’s son Absalom had fled into exile after murdering his half-brother Amnon for raping his sister Tamar. David took no action to discipline Absalom. Yet, he allowed Absalom to hide in exile. Through deceit, David’s general Joab orchestrated Absalom’s return to Jerusalem. Yet, Absalom never atoned for or repented of his sins. He and David also were never properly reconciled. This would later result in disaster. Through the mistakes of Joab, David, and Absalom, God reveals seven lessons on restoration. These include: (1) honesty, (2) restitution, (3) fairness, (4) forgiveness, (5) reconciliation, (6) humble repentance, and (7) love.
First, Joab had the noble goal of reconciling David with his son Absalom. Yet, he used deceit to accomplish his goal. His deceit would ultimately result in a failed restoration. From Joab’s mistake, God reveals that true restoration begins with honesty. Second, Joab had a woman present a parable of a son who asked for clemency after he killed another man during a quarrel. David granted clemency to the hypothetical murder without requiring any punishment or restitution. As king, David was required to apply God’s law, which required punishment and restitution. Third, having deviated from God’s law in the hypothetical, the woman demanded that David do so for Absalom by pardoning him of his crimes and bringing him back to Israel. She trapped David in his hypocrisy. Yet, under God’s law, true restoration requires a fair and just resolution or it will not last. Fourth, having been trapped into reconciliation, David’s only thought was on who orchestrated the scheme against him. He had not forgiven Absalom. Under God’s law, true restoration requires mutual forgiveness. Without it, restoration will not last. Fifth, because he had not forgiven Absalom, David refused to meet with his son for two years after bringing him back from exile. This caused Absalom to become filled with resentment. From David’s mistake, God reveals that true restoration reconciles the sinner and victim or it again will not last. Sixth, Absalom was blinded by his physical appearance to the ugly sins inside of him. Thus, he never acknowledged his sins or repented. Yet, under God’s law, true restoration includes humble repentance. Finally, when they were finally united, David embraced his son out of love. Under God’s law, true restoration requires God’s agape love between the sinner and the victim. Yet, the persons seeking to be reconciled cannot skip the other steps required for true reconciliation. Because David and Absalom failed to follow the proper steps for reconciliation, conflict would again emerge between them and divide the entire country.
Joab’s plan to reconcile David and his son Absalom through deceit. David’s general Joab thought he could gain influence by uniting David with his son Absalom. Yet, instead of talking through the need for reconciliation with David, Joab came up with an elaborate scheme to force the parties to reconcile: “1 Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart was inclined toward Absalom. 2 So Joab sent to Tekoa and brought a wise woman from there and said to her, ‘Please pretend to be a mourner, and put on mourning garments now, and do not anoint yourself with oil, but be like a woman who has been mourning for the dead many days; 3 then go to the king and speak to him in this manner.’ So Joab put the words in her mouth.” (2 Sam. 14:1-3). Joab had previously caused great embarrassment to David after he murdered Abner. Abner killed Joab’s brother Asahel in self-defense in battle after Abner warned him not to pursue after him (2 Sam 2:18-24). Although Abner fought on the wrong side, he did not commit murder. Abner later switched sides in the civil war and swore allegiance to David. David accepted Abner’s oath of allegiance and forgave him. Yet, Joab was still consumed with anger over his brother’s death. Thus, he manipulated Abner to step outside the gates of a city of refuge where he then murdered Abner as revenge for killing his brother (2 Sam. 3:26-30). David later publicly proclaimed that God would avenge Abner for Joab’s evil: “I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah are too difficult for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil.” (2 Sam. 3:39). Joab had also defeated the Arameans in a battle without David (2 Sam. 10:12-14; 1 Chron. 19:13-15). Yet, the victory was not complete. The Arameans were not decisively defeated until David later joined the battle (2 Sam. 10:15-18; 1 Chron. 19:16-18). Joab knew that David longed to be reunited with his estranged son Absalom (2 Sam. 13:39). As a means for reestablishing his influence within the royal court, Joab most likely sought to reconcile David with Absalom. Yet, just as he used deceit to kill Abner, he again used deceit through a pretend widow to bring about this reconciliation.
Deceit is Satan’s tool that should never be used to serve God. Joab might have felt that his goal was noble and that the ends therefore justified the means. Yet, God never wants a believer to adopt the ways of the devil when seeking to serve Him. Deceit is a type of a lie. Lies and deceit are Satan’s tools to turn people away from God (Dt. 11:16; 30:17). If you deceive or lie, you are also under Satan’s influence. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. . . Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jo. 8:44). A person who practices deceit also does “not serve our Lord Christ . . .” (Ro. 16:18). “Deceit” is further one of the things that Jesus warns will defile a person (Mk. 7:20-23). Without the blood of Christ, deceit is grounds alone to bar a person from heaven: “He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me.” (Rev. 21:8; Ps. 101:7; Prov. 19:9). Although deceit will not cause you as a saved believer to lose your eternal salvation, there are still consequences when you practice deceit. Solomon warns: “Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.” (Prov. 20:17). Are there any lies or deception in your dealings with others?
A godly person speaks the truth. Solomon warns that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21) and that “a wholesome tongue is a tree of life.” (Prov. 15:4). If Joab were under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he would have spoken only the truth. “Your word is truth.” (Jo. 17:17(b)). “For He said, ‘Surely, they are My people, sons who will not deal falsely.’” (Is. 63:8(a)). “You shall not . . . deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” (Lev. 19:11). “How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!” (Ps. 32:2). “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Eph. 4:25). If you need reconciliation, start by telling the truth.
God allowed David to be deceived just as he had deceived others. On at least four prior occasions, David employed the tool of deception for his own benefit. Each time, David’s acts of deception grew worse. First, when captured in the city of Gath, David convinced the Philistine King Achish that he posed no threat by pretending to be a madman with saliva dripping down his beard (1 Sam. 21:13-15). Second, David later again deceived King Achish into believing that he was murdering and looting the Jews as a bandit when he was really murdering and looting the Canaanites (1 Sam. 27:10-12). Third, David used deception to try to convince Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba after he got her pregnant following his adultery (2 Sam. 11:6-13). Fourth, he conspired with Joab to create a fake report about the cause of Uriah’s death after David had him murdered to cover up his sins (2 Sam. 11:18-25). God allowed David to be deceived just as he deceived others. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7). “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it.” (Job 4:8). Are you sowing the seeds of trouble in your life?
The parable of a murder who sought clemency without atonement. Through his deceit, Joab created a parable that would exploit David’s prior failures to apply God’s law for punishment and restitution with his own children: “4 Now when the woman of Tekoa spoke to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and prostrated herself and said, ‘Help, O king.’ 5 The king said to her, ‘What is your trouble?’ And she answered, ‘Truly I am a widow, for my husband is dead. 6 Your maidservant had two sons, but the two of them struggled together in the field, and there was no one to separate them, so one struck the other and killed him. 7 Now behold, the whole family has risen against your maidservant, and they say, ‘Hand over the one who struck his brother, that we may put him to death for the life of his brother whom he killed, and destroy the heir also.’ Thus they will extinguish my coal which is left, so as to leave my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.’ 8 Then the king said to the woman, ‘Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.’ 9 The woman of Tekoa said to the king, ‘O my lord, the king, the iniquity is on me and my father’s house, but the king and his throne are guiltless.’ 10 So the king said, ‘Whoever speaks to you, bring him to me, and he will not touch you anymore.’ 11 Then she said, ‘Please let the king remember the Lord your God, so that the avenger of blood will not continue to destroy, otherwise they will destroy my son.’ And he said, ‘As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.’” (2 Sam. 14:4-11). Under God’s law, a person could address their grievances in a local court. If he disagreed with the outcome, he could appeal all the way to the king. Yet, a king was not above the law. Nor could he ignore it in resolving disputes. He also could not show favoritism. Joab was able to spring his trap for David because he knew from experience that David would ignore the law and judge based upon his emotions.
The woman of Tekoa appeals to David1
David’s failure to be the instrument of God’s justice. Moses warned that a leader must pursue God’s justice: “ 20 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Dt. 16:20). God appointed the kings to “do justice and righteousness.” (1 Kgs. 10:9). A king is supposed to sit “on the throne of justice.” (Prov. 20:8). As the King of Israel and the highest judge in the land, David was also required to judge according to God’s law: “In a dispute they shall take their stand to judge; they shall judge it according to My ordinances.” (Ezek. 44:24). He was further prohibited from showing favoritism to the woman simply because he felt sorry for her: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.” (Lev. 19:15; Ex. 23:8; Dt. 16:19; 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:17-19). God had just shown David his sin in being partial to his sons Amnon and Absalom by withholding judgment because of their privileged status as princes of Israel. Here, God allowed David to be deceived by the fake widow to show that he was also unwilling to be impartial to a poor woman who appeared sympathetic. Thus, with both the powerful and the poor, David failed to fulfill his role as Israel’s king.
The punishment for Absalom’s intentional and premeditated murder was death. God’s punishment for murder is death: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” (Gen 9:6; Ex. 21:12; Lev. 24:17; Nu. 35:30). Yet, God distinguishes between different kinds of death. In the woman’s hypothetical scenario, one son killed another during the course of a quarrel. Today, this would be called second degree murder or manslaughter. A person convicted of manslaughter could reside in a city of refuge: “These six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel, and for the alien and for the sojourner among them; that anyone who kills a person unintentionally may flee there.” (Nu. 35:13). A person would reside there until the death of the high priest. (Nu. 35:25, 32; Josh. 20:6). This was very different from Absalom’s murder of his brother Amnon. Unlike the hypothetical, Absalom engaged in a carefully planned and premeditated murder. Under God’s law, Absalom’s premeditated murder carried a death penalty (Nu. 35:20-21). For someone like Absalom who lies in wait and strikes out of anger, there was no question about the punishment: “If he pushed him of hatred, or threw something at him lying in wait and as a result he died, or if he struck him down with his hand in enmity, and as a result he died, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer . . .” (Nu. 35:20-21). As king, it was David’s duty to uphold the law for all, including his own family. If he had a reason for applying a different punishment, like manslaughter instead of murder, he needed to consult God and explain to the people why he was not showing favoritism towards his own son. Whatever this lesser punishment might have been, David then needed to carry through with it to let the people know that he took his responsibilities as king seriously. If David applied the manslaughter punishment, Absalom still needed to live in a city of refuge. Failing to take any kind of action would make him an unjust king and soon cause others to question him.
David’s willingness to grant mercy to an unknown murderer but not his son. Once David deviated from his role in applying the law, the woman sprung her trap and demanded that David apply the same leniency to his own son: “12 Then the woman said, ‘Please let your maidservant speak a word to my lord the king.’ And he said, ‘Speak.’ 13 The woman said, ‘Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in speaking this word the king is as one who is guilty, in that the king does not bring back his banished one. 14 For we will surely die and are like water spilled on the ground which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him. 15 Now the reason I have come to speak this word to my lord the king is that the people have made me afraid; so your maidservant said, ‘Let me now speak to the king, perhaps the king will perform the request of his maidservant. 16 For the king will hear and deliver his maidservant from the hand of the man who would destroy both me and my son from the inheritance of God.’ 17 Then your maidservant said, ‘Please let the word of my lord the king be comforting, for as the angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and evil. And may the Lord your God be with you.’” (2 Sam. 14:12-17). The woman correctly observed that Absalom was a threat to Israel while he lived in exile under the protection of a foreign king. Absalom was David’s third son (2 Sam. 3:2-5). Yet, some believe that he was next in line to claim title to the throne. Amnon, the firstborn, was now dead. And the Bible says nothing about the second son Chileab. This suggests that he was somehow no longer in contention to succeed David. Thus, Absalom might have used force under the protection of a foreign power to try to claim the throne. Restoring him was therefore an urgent matter (2 Sam. 14:14). Yet, Absalom would also be a threat to Israel if he did not repent and change his evil ways. The woman also correctly observed that God had provided a way to restore the banished prince. Yet, those steps involved the atonement of sin and the payment of restoration. David took none of the steps under God’s law to bring Absalom to a place of repentance where he would seek to atone for his sins with a blood sacrifice and pay restitution. Even worse, if David did not hold Absalom accountable under the law, others would question his fairness as king. Indeed, after his return, Absalom would level charges against David to sow doubt in peoples’ minds regarding whether he would fairly administer his duties as a judge (2 Sam. 15:1-6).
David’s discipline would have shown his true love for Absalom. To prevent Absalom from sinning again, David needed to discipline him to correct his wayward behavior. As our example, God the Father administers spiritual discipline out of love to correct wayward behavior: “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son who He receives.” (Heb. 12:6; Dt. 8:5). “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:19). “For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” (Prov. 3:12; Heb. 12:6; Rev. 3:19). “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7). “Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.” (Dt. 8:5). Because Absalom was a prince of Israel, his punishment had to be more severe because he should have known the law. He also had to be an example to others: “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.” (Lk. 12:47-8; 1 Cor. 11:32). Although no one likes to be disciplined, you can draw comfort when you receive discipline because it shows that God is trying to mold your behavior out of love for you to conform to His will: “I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4). Are you disciplining your children to mold them for God’s use?
Any type of sin against God required a blood atonement and restitution. The woman correctly observed that: “God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one will not be cast out from him.” (2 Sam. 14:14). Amnon’s death required a burnt offering (Lev. 6:8-9). Because Amnon’s death was also a sin against God (Ps. 51:4), God also required a guilt offering in the form of a ram and restitution (Lev. 5:16). Ignorance of the sin or what the law required was no excuse (Lev. 5:17-19). Moreover, if David took no action as king, it would fall upon a descendant of Amnon to avenge his death: “The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets him.” (Nu. 35:19). Yet, David did not require a guilt offering from the hypothetical murder. Nor did he ever call for any type of blood offering or restitution from his son Absalom. David again failed in his duties as both a king and a father.
Failing to address murder pollutes the land with sin. Although many believers today think that capital punishment is immoral, God is clear that failing to punish murders will pollute the land with sin: “So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. And you shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord am dwelling in the midst of the sons of Israel.” (Nu. 35:33-34). Thus, David’s failure to punish Absalom impacted all of Israel.
Our restoration also requires the blood of atonement that only Jesus can provide. Although God still requires a civil justice system to punish murders, His requirement of a blood sacrifice and restitution can be made through Jesus. Through His death on the cross, Jesus offers the only way for these requirements to be met. He was offered as our substitute “guilt” or trespass offering against God. “But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.” (Is. 53:10-11). Through His death, you are also freed of any requirement to pay restitution to God. Yet, being freed of your debts should motivate you to voluntarily give your life as a “living sacrifice” to Jesus for what He did for you. “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Ro. 12:1). Have you given thanks that Jesus has paid the penalties for your sins against God?
David’s unwillingness to fully forgive after being tricked into reconciliation. Because David had been tricked into bringing Absalom back to Israel, there was no forgiveness in David’s heart for him. Instead, David could only wonder who had deceived him. “18 Then the king answered and said to the woman, ‘Please do not hide anything from me that I am about to ask you.’ And the woman said, ‘Let my lord the king please speak.’ 19 So the king said, ‘Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?’ And the woman replied, ‘As your soul lives, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything that my lord the king has spoken. Indeed, it was your servant Joab who commanded me, and it was he who put all these words in the mouth of your maidservant; 20 in order to change the appearance of things your servant Joab has done this thing. But my lord is wise, like the wisdom of the angel of God, to know all that is in the earth.” (2 Sam. 14:18-20). David obviously knew that Joab was involved before the woman confirmed it. Joab has used this same type of deceit to trick Abner previously, which embarrassed David. His act in bringing Absalom back to Israel without any type of repentance or atonement price would again lead to a series of embarrassing events for David.
Forgive those who persecute you. David’s reconciliation ultimately failed because it did not begin with a heart of forgiveness: “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (Prov. 19:11). “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32). “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14). “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Col. 3:13). Have you forgiven those who have harmed you?
David’s refusal to see his son after ordering his return from exile. Because Absalom had not repented and David had not forgiven him, Absalom lived under a cold peace as a prisoner in his house and with no access to the king: “21 Then the king said to Joab, ‘Behold now, I will surely do this thing; go therefore, bring back the young man Absalom.’ 22 Joab fell on his face to the ground, prostrated himself and blessed the king; then Joab said, ‘Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, O my lord, the king, in that the king has performed the request of his servant.’ 23 So Joab arose and went to Geshur and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24 However the king said, ‘Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face.’ So Absalom turned to his own house and did not see the king’s face.” (2 Sam. 14:21-24). Absalom lived for three years in exile in Geshur without seeing David (2 Sam. 13:38). Here, he would spend an additional two years living under house arrest. David’s failure to initiate any type of meaningful restoration would cause Absalom to resent him and later plot against him.
Absalom’s return from exile in Geshur2
David’s discipline was done out of lingering anger and sowed resentment. If a parent does not discipline a child, the child will become spoiled: “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” (Prov. 3:24). Yet, believers must never disciple out of anger. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). Discipline done out of anger will only cause a child’s future resentment. David’s refusal to meet with his son Absalom was done out of anger for Absalom’s murder. Because David did not discipline out of love, he sowed the seeds of Absalom’s resentment.
Restore a fellow sinner in a spirit of gentleness. When any believer is caught in sin, believers are called upon to restore them in a spirit of gentleness: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restores such a one in a spirit of gentleness . . .” (Gal. 6:1). “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:18). “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13). Thus, a believer should not condemn or browbeat a sinner with his or her sins. Gossip, slander, and condemnation are Satan’s tools against believers (Rev. 12:10). Confronting a sinner should include calm words that guide the sinner to reconciliation through Jesus. Here, David failed to provide any words at all. Thus, there was no restoration.
Jesus reconciled you with God the Father. Jesus did what David could not do for Absalom. He died so that each and every wayward child of God could be reconciled with their eternal Father: “God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:18-19). How are you thanking Jesus for His gift?
Reconcile with others before you seek God. As part of his ministry of reconciliation, Jesus wants you to reconcile with others before you petition Him: “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matt. 5:23-24). Is there anyone that you have hurt or offended that you can reconcile with before seeking Jesus’ help?
Absalom’s failure to acknowledge his sins before God, Joab, or David. Although David had shown great mercy and grace by sparing Absalom’s life, Absalom was blinded by his shallow exterior beauty to the ugly sins in his life: “25 Now in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him. 26 When he cut the hair of his head (and it was at the end of every year that he cut it, for it was heavy on him so he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head at 200 shekels by the king’s weight. 27 To Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar; she was a woman of beautiful appearance. 28 Now Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, and did not see the king’s face. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him. So he sent again a second time, but he would not come. 30 Therefore he said to his servants, ‘See, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.’ So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 31 Then Joab arose, came to Absalom at his house and said to him, ‘Why have your servants set my field on fire?’ 32 Absalom answered Joab, ‘Behold, I sent for you, saying, ‘Come here, that I may send you to the king, to say, ‘Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me still to be there.’’ Now therefore, let me see the king’s face, and if there is iniquity in me, let him put me to death.’” (2 Sam. 14:25-32). The people loved Saul for his handsome appearance, even though he was not a God-fearing king (1 Sam. 9:2). The people loved Absalom for the same misguided reasons (Sam. 14:25-26). Absalom’s love of himself blinded him to his sins and his need to repent. As one commentator observes, Absalom was the exact opposite of the prodigal son: “It’s hard to think of a greater contrast than that between Absalom and the Prodigal Son of Jesus’ parable. The Prodigal Son came back humble and repentant. Absalom came back burning Joab’s fields.” (David Guzik on 2 Sam. 14).3
Absalom did not have the right to murder Amnon for his rape and incest. Absalom believed that he had committed no sin for his revenge killing of Amnon. Yet, death was not God’s proscribed punishment for rape and incest. For rape where a person is not engaged or married, the punishment was a fine that was worth more than four years in wages or six years of indentured servitude (Dt. 22:25-29; Ex. 22:16). For incest, Amnon’s punishment was to be “cut off” from God’s people, which might have meant exile (Lev. 20:17). He also would have also lived under God’s curse (Dt. 27:22). Even if death were the penalty for Amnon’s sins, Absalom was required to leave vengeance to God. ‘“Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them.’” (Dt. 32:35). “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay’, says the Lord.” (Ro. 12:19).
All have fallen short and are in need of repentance. It might be easy to dismiss Absalom for failing to acknowledge his obvious sins. Yet, everyone is a sinner in God’s eyes: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Ro. 3:23). “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecc. 7:20). “And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living is righteous.” (Ps. 143:2). “Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” (Job 4:17). Have you confessed your sins to receive His mercy?
Mercy is given to whom it is shown. Absalom demanded mercy when he was unwilling to show mercy to his brother. Just as God shows you mercy, He wants you to show mercy to others. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk. 6:36). “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7). “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” (Lk. 6:37). “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2; Prov. 19:11). “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Are you merciful to your enemies? Will you show mercy even if you have nothing worldly to gain for it?
Confess your sins to those whom you have wronged, and then change your ways. Unlike Absalom, God wants you to confess your sins to others: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” (Jam. 5:16(a)). The confession of sin is a central tenet of the Christian faith. John baptized believers only as they confessed their sins: “and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.” (Matt. 3:6, 11). If you confess your sins, God will forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9). Yet, the confession of sin is not enough. There must also change the sinful behavior. Without a change in the sinful behavior, the confession is not genuine.
Show self-restraint when you feel wronged. Absalom failed to show restraint at his anger for being placed under house arrest. Unlike Absalom, Jesus calls upon believers to show restraint when they are provoked or insulted. “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matt. 5:39; Lk. 6:29). “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:9; Ro. 12:14, 17). When others hurt you, do you restrain your urge to strike back?
Show patience for God’s timing when you are attacked. Absalom failed to show patience in allowing for restoration to take place. Part of being restrained includes waiting for God's timing: “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and He will save you.” (Prov. 20:22). “For the choir director. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1). “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.” (Ps. 27:14; 25:3, 21). When you face conflict, do you wait on God for guidance?
Absalom became a spoiled prince because David did not discipline him. By withholding discipline from Absalom as he did with Amnon, David created a spoiled child who only thought for himself (Prov. 13:14). “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” (2 Tim. 3:2). “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:21). Are you teaching your children not to be self-absorbed and vain?
Absalom’s failure to repent of his sins caused them to spread. As a result of his unrepentant sin, Absalom’s sin would grow. God warns believers not to conceal their sins: “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, . . ..” (Prov. 28:13). “Yet you said, ‘I am innocent; surely His anger is turned away from me.’ Behold, I will enter into judgment with you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.”’ (Jer. 2:35). “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8). You must therefore repent of any sin the Holy Spirit shows you. If not, your sins will spread.
David embraces and kisses Absalom with a father’s love. Even though David and Absalom had taken none of the steps for proper restoration, David could not conceal his love for his son after having been separated from him for five years: “33 So when Joab came to the king and told him, he called for Absalom. Thus he came to the king and prostrated himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.” (2 Sam. 14:33). Although Absalom prostrated himself before David, his submission was short lived. Because he still resented David and saw himself as unjustly punished, he would soon conspire against David. He further learned through his murder of Amnon and from burning Joab’s fields that violence was a successful tool for him.
David embraces Absalom4
Use kindness and love to win over your enemies. David embraced Absalom because he loved him. If he had acted sooner, kindness would have been effective in changing his behavior: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Prov. 25:21-22; Ro. 12:20). “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Ro. 12:21). “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44; Lk. 6:28, 35). Thus, love is critical to true reconciliation.
Love covers many sins. God’s love can also cover many sins. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8). Job, for example, made continuous sacrifices for his children in case they sinned (Job 1:5).
Love without justice will not result in long-lasting reconciliation. Despite David’s love, Absalom would soon turn against him. God is love (1 Jo. 4:16). But He is also just (Is. 61:8; Job 8:3; 37:23). True reconciliation must include both God’s love and His justice or it will not last. If you are showing love to be reconciled with a sinner who has hurt you, the pain will not likely end if there is no discipline to change the sinful behavior.
Image credit (Caspar Luiken) Woman of Tekoa - Wikipedia↩︎