Repeating the Past
2 Samuel 13:23-39
23 After two full years Absalom had sheepshearers at Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons.
24 And Absalom came to the king and said, “Behold, your servant has sheepshearers. Please let the king and his servants go with your servant.”
25 But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, let us not all go, lest we be burdensome to you.” He pressed him, but he would not go but gave him his blessing.
26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us.” And the king said to him, “Why should he go with you?”
27 But Absalom pressed him until he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him.
28 Then Absalom commanded his servants, “Mark when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then kill him. Do not fear; have I not commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.”
29 So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and each mounted his mule and fled.
30 While they were on the way, news came to David, “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.”
31 Then the king arose and tore his garments and lay on the earth. And all his servants who were standing by tore their garments.
32 But Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for Amnon alone is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar.
33 Now therefore let not my lord the king so take it to heart as to suppose that all the king’s sons are dead, for Amnon alone is dead.”
34 But Absalom fled. And the young man who kept the watch lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, many people were coming from the road behind him by the side of the mountain.
35 And Jonadab said to the king, “Behold, the king’s sons have come; as your servant said, so it has come about.”
36 And as soon as he had finished speaking, behold, the king’s sons came and lifted up their voice and wept. And the king also and all his servants wept very bitterly.
37 But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son day after day. 38 So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years.
39 And the spirit of the king longed to go out to Absalom, because he was comforted about Amnon, since he was dead.
Just when David should have been enjoying the products of his hard work and efforts as king, his own family begins to unravel. By this point in David’s reign, the kingdom is basically as peace with her neighbors. David’s power is absolute and he is wealthy beyond his wildest imagination. And yet his own sons and daughters cannot live at peace. As David brought adultery and murder into his home, so now his children are living out that legacy.
The Apostle Paul talks about that aspect of the kingdom with these words from Galatians 6:7. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Why are we so surprised when life turns to pain when we live a sinful or unwise life? Often I have had people ask me, “Why is this happening to me?” This is a tough situation to be in because the answers are often quite obvious. The befuddled person is merely reaping back what they have sown and are yet surprised to be in a place of suffering. I’m not sure where this disconnect comes from, but indeed it is there for a great many people. And here is where David shines again. He never asks God, “why me?” when all this is going on in his family. He knows what he has sown and while he is grieved, he is realistic. I still admire him for that.
In today’s story, we find truly despicable behavior. Absalom is completely wrong to kill his brother. But, Amnon seems to have gotten away with rape and that is terrible as well. David’s refusal to deal the Amnon is troubling, for sure. Perhaps had David taken care of justice, Absalom would not have seen the need to seek his own revenge. We’ll never know. But we are seeing the result of a series of very bad decisions. The slope going downward continues to be slippery and fast.
We read and study these stories so that they will shape and inform our own lives. As I’ve said before, it is possible to learn from the mistakes of others. As we examine these sordid lives, it is always a good idea to examine or own and see if we have placed our feet upon those same slippery slopes. If so, it’s time to jump off! If not, it is still a good idea to watch where you set your foot down, for in doing so, you will be better able to keep your feet on the path God is lighting before you.