‘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.’ – 2 Samuel 19:6
All men are tempted by the big three- women, children, and power. We see the big three and the damage they can do in the life of King David. We saw last the folly of running red lights. God put before David at least nine ‘stop lights’ to keep him from his adulterous liaison with Bathsheba, but in his folly, he went for it and brought devastating consequences upon his family and kingdom.
Men battle not just the folly of other women or the pursuit of power, but also the folly of failing to fill the holes they eventually see in their children. Take David’s dealings with his son Absalom as a sad example. I see at least seven holes in Absalom’s life upon which David failed to act.
Hole number one. Samuel tells us that David had many wives (2 Samuel 5:13) though he does not give us the exact number. Scripture records eight of them and one, Maacah, was the mother of Absalom (2 Samuel 3:3). Absalom was born long before David’s adultery with Bathsheba but David’s problems with women did not merely begin there. Absalom would have witnessed his father’s undisciplined life with many different women. Take away- your children are not stupid. They see what you are doing. They are watching your every move, how you get too close to women who are not their mother.
Hole number two. Half brother Ammon lusts after half sister Tamar (Absalom’s full sister) and rapes her. Absalom plots vengeance against Ammon, eventually murdering him. While justly angry at Ammon’s violating of his sister, Absalom’s fratricide was unjustified. David did nothing to stop Absalom. Take away- teach your children to appeal to God ordained authority to right the wrongs they see or experience. They must never gain the idea that vigilante justice is acceptable.
Hole number three. After discovering that Absalom had committed fratricide, David did nothing to discipline his son. The narrative of the text is now making clear that David favored Absalom over all his other children. He mourned the departure of Absalom and was glad that Ammon was now dead (2 Samuel 13:39). Take away-never play favorites with your children. Never allow them to engage in vengeful actions against anyone, especially their siblings.
Hole number four. David was conned by Joab, his nephew, the captain of David’s army. Joab sent a widow woman from Tekoa to set up David with a bogus story about one of her two son’s killing the other son, asking David to protect her son against retribution, something he agrees to do. She then draws the noose around David’s neck by challenging him for being inconsistent. If he would protect her son from retribution, why would he not protect his own son and bring him back from exile? Take away- do not spare your children the discipline they need. Do not indulge them in their wickedness. Stop it early. It is much easier to discipline a three year old that a sixteen year old.
Hole number five. Absalom was a strikingly handsome man who lived a privileged life as the king’s favored son. The long story of Absalom (taking up seven chapters of 2 Samuel) reveals how David repeatedly coddled and indulged his son. After David foolishly recalled Absalom, though still requiring him to live away from the king, Absalom demanded that Joab visit him. When Joab was slow to answer, Absalom had Joab’s field burned, destroying his crop of barley. Joab caved. So did David, granting Absalom full access to his presence. Take away- failure to do the difficult business of discipline, leaving unchecked the undisciplined life, will lead inevitably to more and more outrageous demands and family disruption.
Hole number six. Daddy David allowed Absalom access to opulence. Though Absalom has a long history of irresponsible and reckless behavior, David still allows his favored son a chariot, horses, and a posse of fifty men. Second Samuel 15 reports that Absalom hung out daily with his posse at the gate, siding with the people as they came to present their cases before David, suggesting not too subtly that he would make a much better king than David. Thus Absalom stole the hearts of the people from the king. David seemed to not know how to form the word ‘No,’ on his lips as he spoke with Absalom. The favored son wanted to leave town for Hebron and David let him go. This, of course, is the time and place where Absalom raised the insurrection against his own father, usurping the kingdom from him. Take away-the grace of expanding freedom is fine when you are dealing with an obedient child; but when you have one who is serially disobedient, manipulative, and deceiving, you have no choice but to hem him in with the law. ‘No, you cannot go there. No you cannot have a car. No, you cannot wear that short dress.’
Hole number seven. We read in 2 Samuel 18,19 the story of Absalom eventually being killed in battle and the kingdom restored to David. However when David hears that his favored son, the one who has caused him untold heartache, is dead; David weeps profusely, uncontrollably, and unwisely. Joab severely rebukes David, suggesting that David would be happy if all his people and faithful leaders were dead, as long as his beloved Absalom was still alive. Take away- do not allow yourself to be blinded by your children’s rebellion. Behavior you would never approve in others, you may possibly allow in your children, perhaps because you are misguided, thinking that you are to be your child’s best buddy. Don’t go there. When law nor grace have worked and your rebellious older child is utterly disrupting your family life; in order to save the rest of your children and to maintain the peace in your family, you may have to remove the wayward child for a season from your home.
And last but certainly not least, you must never forget to pray for your children, asking God the Holy Spirit to take out the rebellious heart that loves sin and hates God, what I like to call the cobra heart (Psalm 58:4); and to give them the heart of Jesus in regenerating grace. The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. Pray for your children. Evangelize your children. Ask God to give them a new heart which loves God and hates sin.
– Al Baker