As a pastor, I have learned that I cannot fix people who come to me for counseling. It was a turning point in my ministry to realize this and that only God can correct the problems of the human heart. However, I still wish I had the ability to do something that I know is even more impossible. I wish I could go back to that very moment in my counselee’s life when things began to unravel and have them address that situation properly. I was reminded of this earlier this week when I was reading the tragic story of David and his son Absalom in 2 Samuel 13-18.
One of David’s many sons, Amnon, lusted after his half-sister Tamar and raped her. She was disgraced. She was no longer a virgin and no man would want to marry her. When her brother Absalom found out about it, he remained silent and “spoke neither good nor bad” to Amnon. When David heard what happened he was furious, but never took any action
Prince Absalom (for he was next in line for the throne) took his sister in and cared for; “So Tamar lived a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house” (2 Sam 13:20). He even named one of his daughters after her to cheer her up. Absalom hated Amnon, and this hatred festered for two years until he hatched a plan to have Ammon killed by some of his servants while attending a party at his house. Then he fled the country; a refugee from his father’s kingdom for three years. Now David had lost both of his sons and was grieved. His servant Joab knew how David longed to be with Absalom again and devised a plan for his return. Joab resorted to trickery and deception to get what he wanted.
David relented and sent for Absalom to return to Jerusalem, but he was not allowed to see David’s face again nor enter his house. David was torn between love and anger over his son’s behavior and his ambivalence was shown by just not dealing with the situation. Maybe you have a relationship like that. Your relative lives on the other side of town, but haven’t spoken in years because of unresolved issues.
Two more years went by (so that was seven years after the Tamar affair; five years after the murder of Amnon) and David still refused to see Absalom. Finally, Absalom forced the issue with Joab who got him an appointment to see his father. Here is what the Bible records about their long awaited meeting: “So he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom” (2 Sam 14:33). That’s it? Well at least it was something, but what did it accomplish? How deep was Absalom’s repentance? I would say that he bowed down on the outside but he was standing ramrod straight with defiance in his heart. The very next verse details the beginning of his conspiracy to steal the kingdom from his father, which ends in the terrible tragedy of Absalom’s death and a heartbroken father crying out in grief. Where did it all begin? If we could go back and address the key issue, what would it have been?
I have my thoughts on the matter, which I will tell you next week. I’d like you to think about it too. Go back over the text again. What was the key issue that if properly addressed may have prevented this tragic family situation? Maybe you can let me know what you think.