The love of a father for a son (2 Samuel 18)

Series: David, a man after God's heart


It has been a long time since we started to study the life of David. I hope you are learning a lot from this series. We slowly are making our way to the end of his life, but for now, we go back to 2 Samuel, to finish what we started two weeks ago. You know that Absalom has now led a full, open rebellion against his father. He has driven David out of his palace; he has driven his dad out of the city of Jerusalem. And, now, David is broken-hearted. As he walks, tears are rolling down his cheeks. And finally, David ends up, over near the Fort of Ephraim. And Absalom’s giant army is pursuing David and David’s little army goes out to fight, in the forest of Ephraim. Only David stays away from the battle. He is in a room in the fort. And you may remember, the battle is a quick battle. The Lord is with David’s men and so they kill many in Absalom’s army and scatter the rest. And the last thing we saw, two months ago, was Absalom, riding on a mule under an oak tree and his massive head of hair getting caught on a limb. He is now suspended, there, and Joab comes, with javelins, and he throws them into the heart of Absalom. The young man dies. And really, it’s good news because, now, David can go back to being king. Also, with this victory, David can go back to his palace, in the city of Jerusalem. And with this good news, David knows that he will continue to live. For, remember, Absalom had said, “I will destroy all David’s armies and then, I will kill my father and be king forever!” But, now, David has gained the victory.

The only thing is, as we begin with 2 Samuel 18:19, David doesn’t know, yet, he has won! He is in his little room while his army is in the battlefield and so, somehow, his commander has to get the message to him. You can imagine how David is waiting anxiously. This day will have such an impact on his life. And so, Joab decides to send a Cushi, with the message. And, as he is about to send this Cushi, there is a young man, there, Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, who interrupts and asks permission to go, instead. Now, if you remember, this young man was instrumental in David’s victory. He had informed David, earlier, of Absalom’s plan! So his loyalty and courage were beyond the shadow of a doubt; but Joab doesn’t want him to go. He says, in v. 20, “….” And so, Joab tells the Cushite, in v. 21, “….” But Ahimaaz does not give up that easily. We read, in v. 22-23, “….” The only problem is that Joab underestimates the speed of the priest’s son. And Ahimaaz now outruns the Cushite. He arrives at the fort and he can hardly wait to give the good news. And as he enters, he is so excited, we read in v.28, he cries out the news. “….” And what that young man is saying is, “David, you have won!”

Now, that’s good news! David, now, can go back home. He can continue living as king. Almost always, when the person hears about victory, he is filled with joy. If a coach hears his basketball team has won, he is happy! If the owner of a football team hears they have won, he is happy. But David does not rejoice. He doesn’t ask a bundle of questions; he has only one thought on his mind – his son. Look at v. 29. He asks, “….” He is not concerned about his army; he is not concerned about his commander, or even his own life. What he is concerned about is his son, Absalom. “Is his son safe?” And Ahamaaz realizes the predicament and he remains silent for he does not know how to answer. He stands there trying to buy some time, until the Cushite comes. Now the Cushite is a little bolder. And the text says, in v. 32, “….” And what the Cushite has just said is this. “Absalom is dead! And when King David hears those words, he is shaken, deep down. In v. 33, he says, “….” And so, the king mourns and cries and grieves because his son, Absalom is dead!

And as you begin 2 Samuel, Ch. 19, it says that on that day of victory, on that day when all the army should have been so very, very happy, they all went into mourning because King David was mourning his son. Now that’s all I want to talk about, this afternoon, in terms of the story. I just want you to read how David is concerned about his son and how he mourns, when his son dies. And I have three observations I want to give to you this afternoon. They are relatively forward, at least the first two.

I. Relationships within a family are more important than anything you might achieve or accumulate, on this earth.

Relationships, within your family, this afternoon, are more important than what you accumulate or that which you might achieve. And I see that, from David, because, here, David is just recognized, again, as king. He’s just been given the news that he’ll live, again, in the palace, in Jerusalem. And yet, he is not concerned about that because, right now, that’s not the most important thing. The most important thing for him is the fact that his son is dead. And his heart is broken.

We see this, lots of times, at funerals. Almost every time I preach at funerals, I find people are thinking along the same line as David. They are thinking how great is the loss of a loved one that was, once, among them. You know, you can lose a lot of things in life. You can lose a ring or you can lose money, due to a bad investment; and it hurts. But nothing ever hurts quite like the loss of a loved one. And I say this because we, probably, ought to be a people who spend a great deal of time building those family relationships, those relationships with our loved ones. Let me give you another story that illustrates the point. In January, of 1984, Senator Paul Sangur, a senator from the state of Massachusetts, decided that he would not run for reelection to the United States Senate. More than that, he decided that he would resign his position, immediately. This was prompted, a few months earlier, when he was diagnosed with having cancer of the lymph glands. And yet, the doctors had done such a fine job with him. They had been successful in putting the disease in remission. So, the doctor thought that, as far as the cancer was concerned, the Senator could continue in his job. He felt he could even run for reelection, that everything was fine! But an aide of Senator Sangur said, “He didn’t want to remain in the Senate and he didn’t want to run for reelection. The only thing he wanted was to go back home and be with his wife and his family. He wanted to spend more time with his children and the grandchildren. He saw that it was more important to build relationships with his family than to write laws for the U.S. or direct the affairs of this nation.“ And I think that’s what David found out. Only David learned it when it was too late!

Up to this point in his life, David hadn’t spent that much time with his son. He had thought it was more important to direct his kingdom, to give leadership to his army. And now, Absalom is gone and David realizes the importance of family; but it’s too late.

II. Parents greatly love their children.

But then, I have a second observation. It’s very simple, also. It is that parents greatly love their children. In fact, parents love their children more than they love their own lives because David says, “If only I had died for you!” And David, it seems, is saying, “If I had the choice, I would rather die than to have my son die!” And I’d like for all of you to know, this afternoon, regardless of your age, your parents love you more than they love their own lives.

North of Emmett, Oklahoma, there is what they call the Great Salt Lake Reservoir. It’s a place that was built by the Army Corp of Engineers. There are two things, very unique, about the Great Salt Lake Reservoir. One unique thing is that it’s salty. There are some strong salt resources near the lake and the water is salty. And, nearby, there are huge beaches, all white, and people come from far away to dig for salt crystals. And the second unique thing, about the Great Salt Lake Reservoir, is the spillway at the dam. You don’t see many like this one. It’s a huge concrete structure at the upper end. And as the water level, at the lake, rises, it will begin to spill over this rounded, smooth concrete wall and it will drop down into this little pool. And when this second pool of water begins to rise and reach its maximum water level, the water then spills over a smooth, concrete wall. And so, when the lake waters rise, they spill down the three levels. But what you can’t see, if you look at the spillway, is that under these pools of water, there are some giant pipes. And the pressure, at the entrance of these pipes, is tremendous. If anything drops in the pool of water, it will be sucked into the pipe and carried underground to an outlet. The Army Corp of Engineers designed that spillway so that all the water would not go overland, so that some would go through the pipes underground. Now, about eight years ago, the rain had been heavy and water was released from that structure. There was a father, there, who was leaning over the edge, looking at that water running out of the spillway. People, often, did that. That was quite a sight to see when water was being released. And no one knows for sure how it happened; but that father had a little two-year old boy with him; and that boy fell in. They don’t know if the boy fell out of his arms or if the little boy climbed up some way, but somehow, he plunged over the edge into that first pool of water. And just as soon as he hit the water, he was sucked into one of the giant pipes. And you know, he, immediately, died. That was a great tragedy for those watching. But what made it worse is the father, with a broken heart, with tremendous fears, leaned over the edge and jumped in after his son! And as soon as he hit the water, he was sucked into one of those pipes, mangled and destroyed. And all over the area, it was reported, what the father had done. How he had jumped, in a hopeless situation, to save his son. That, Folks, reminded everyone, in the state, of the depth of a father’s love. Fathers love their children enough to give their lives for them. And David loved Absalom every bit, as much.

But really, that shouldn’t amaze me, should it? We are made in whose image? And God loves us that much. He loves us so deeply, so widely, the Bible says, it is impossible to describe. Jesus put it this way, in Matthew 7:11. “If you fathers, on this earth, know how to give good gifts to your children”, what? Let’s read, “….” And it’s John who writes in 1 John 3:1, “….” “And God loved us more than he loved himself. He plunged after us to redeem us. He gave his own life that we might live.” And so, the first two points of this lesson, I hope, are obvious to you. Relationships, in a family, are more important than anything you might achieve or accumulate. And parents greatly love their children, often with an amazing love.

III. When a child sees the love of a parent, he will not very likely become rebellious.

But, now, I have a third point, even more important. When a child sees the love of a parent, day-by-day, that child will not, very likely, become rebellious. All of us, in this audience, know what it is to have a rebellious child. Maybe you witnessed one, maybe you were one, or maybe you have one. But for a long time, I have been scratching my head, wondering, how could David have put all the chances, on his side, to prevent such a thing?

Perhaps to find the answer, we need to approach the problem, backwards. How does a son do such a thing? How does a son rise up, against his father, and plot, for years, to overthrow his father? How does one get to the point where he is ready to humiliate and then kill the one who gave him life? What caused that, in the life of Absalom?

First, what I know is that David loved the boy, from the beginning. However, we see that he didn’t correct his son properly. But there is something else. See, I am not sure Absalom saw how much his dad loved him. Do you remember when he had his half-brother killed? When he had to run and stay three years in the land of his grandpa. The scripture says that, at that point, David’s heart was broken. For three years, he mourned because his son was gone. But, not once, did he go seek his son! Never once, did he write to express his feelings. And I tell you I have seen many a conflict between a father and son. And I have seen, often, how a father could say something to rebuild a relationship and, yet, he will not. Maybe it’s a steak of stubbornness. Maybe it’s something else. But the father won’t budge. And, for David and Absalom, it’s Joab, the commander, who has to trick David, to get him to grant permission to Absalom to come back home. But, when Absalom comes back home, David still won’t see him. It goes on for two more years. So, for five years, David will not see his son. And yes, I remember, in the end of Ch. 14, David embraces his son. But I am not sure Absalom ever knew, on a constant basis, how much his dad loved him!

Oh, David gave him things. He provided! Absalom had a nice house; he had many servants; he was able to afford a nice chariot. But things cannot replace words and touch. And after reading the whole story, you don’t seem to glean the fact that David did much of that – to the contrary! Maybe he was too busy being king, too busy leading the armies. And, so, Absalom became rebellious.

And my point, this afternoon, is when a father shows, to his child, his love, day-by-day, this child will not be as likely to go into rebellion.

But you know I’ve heard people say, “Well, if you really love someone, you will naturally show them.” I don’t agree with them. See, I believe that some people, in life, are better at showing their love than others. Some fathers are better than others at showing their love. Some mothers are better than others. So what I am trying to say is, if you want to keep your children in a good direction, you show those children your love every, single day, every time you possibly can. Isn’t it, once again, how God keeps us in line? And isn’t it true that when we experience God’s love, day after day, we are less likely to go in rebellion against him! See, in Hebrews 12:10, it says, “Let your heart be strengthened by his grace.” And that means that when we experience his grace and his love, our hearts do not go as quickly into rebellion.


And so, there are only a few points to this lesson. The first is, “Remember relationships are more important than anything you can accumulate or achieve!” And sometimes, people realize that too late. But God warns all of us with this story. The second lesson is, “Parents love their kids more than themselves!” And, finally, “If you will show your love to your child, day-by-day, the child will not go, as quickly, into rebellion.

Then, I remind all of us that God loves us more than I can possibly describe. And if we will appreciate and experience the love of God, afresh, every day, we will not, so likely, go into rebellion against Him. So, this afternoon, if there is anyone, who is in rebellion against God, look at Him again, experience his love and respond. Let us stand and sing!