Season After Pentecost (Proper 14[19]) – The Old Testament Passage: When regrets are deep

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.” (II Samuel 18:5 – 9)

I have already said and stated that the missteps and mistakes of King David haunted him and “crushed his bones.” David’s sons also made mistakes – some like their father’s and some unique to themselves. They were in the gripes of lust and revenge, emotions that were not stifled or disciplined in the king’s court. And these emotions left to increase and flourish brought bitterness and sadness to King David’s court. If you read chapters thirteen through seventeen you will read how the relationship amongst King David’s offspring descended into ill will.

But today we are looking at and reading about the fate of young Absalom. Absalom set out to win the favor of the people from his father. And he had success in that. But he trusted the advice of others who did not advise him well. They thought that King David had grown weak in his ruling of the kingdom and would easily be defeated. Youth is often brought up short when it comes against the wisdom and resiliency of maturity. And youth forgets what inbred loyalty will rise up to do.

“And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.” (Verse 15)

The missing verses tell quite a tale. Joab did not deal gently with Absalom. In fact he dealt quite harshly with him, and his armor-bearers also. David asked for mercy for his son, as he dealt mercifully with King Saul when he was a young man. But when young men go to war (and older men too) mercy is not a quality often seen or felt on the battle field. But what did David expect when he went to war against his own son? What does anyone expect when war is waged? Lives will be lost and tears will be shed.

“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!” (Verses 31 – 33)

We (and I do not mean myself – I am firmly against any type of armed conflict expect for a battle of wits) send young men to war and then are surprised or shocked when we die. The finest and bravest are sent to pay with their lives for the mistakes governments and society makes. It is my hope that the government and society of all nations will learn to make less costly mistakes, and will learn to apologize when in error. Selah!

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