RPM, Volume 12, Number 25, June 20 to June 26 2010,
Special Edition

O my Son Absalom!

What Every Father Needs to Hear
2 Samuel 18:24-19.2; Proverbs 17:6; Ephesians 6:1-4

By Michael A. Milton, Ph. D.

President, James M. Baird Jr. Professor of Pastoral Theology
Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC

The Bible is very practical and plain. Sometimes, disturbingly so. Like in the case of the historical account of King David and his son, Absalom. David was a great man but he was guilty of great sin. And his sin infected his home. In 2 Samuel 12:11-13, Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba. This was not his first sin. He had been married seven times before. David had seven wives when he took Bathsheba from his servant Uriah the Hittite. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan said that David's great sin had resulted in judgment. The sword would not leave his home. The universal laws of God had been violated. And David's sin had produced family pain. By Chapter 13 it happens. Chapter 13 unfolds the damage done. It is the repugnant tale of incest in the royal line between two children of two different wives of David. The act is followed by the murder of Amnon by Absalom, Tamar's full brother. In Chapter 14, Absalom, we read, "lived two full years in Jerusalem, without coming into the king's presence" (14:28). Absalom conspires to dethrone his father and become King. Chapter 18, the climax of the sordid story. From 18:24-19.2:

Now David was sitting between the two gates, and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he lifted up his eyes and looked, he saw a man running alone. The watchman called out and told the king. And the king said, "If he is alone, there is news in his mouth." And he drew nearer and nearer. The watchman saw another man running. And the watchman called to the gate and said, "See, another man running alone!" The king said, "He also brings news." The watchman said, "I think the running of the first is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok." And the king said, "He is a good man and comes with good news."

Then Ahimaaz cried out to the king, "All is well." And he bowed before the king with his face to the earth and said, "Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king." And the king said, "Is it well with the young man Absalom?" Ahimaaz answered, "When Joab sent the king's servant, your servant, I saw a great commotion, but I do not know what it was." And the king said, "Turn aside and stand here." So he turned aside and stood still.

And behold, the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, "Good news for my lord the king! For the LORD has delivered you this day from the hand of all who rose up against you." The king said to the Cushite, "Is it well with the young man Absalom?" And the Cushite answered, "May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man." * And 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!"

It was told Joab, "Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom." So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for the people heard that day, "The king is grieving for his son."

Introduction to the Sermon

Have you ever had the nightmare where you show up someplace and you are not wearing any clothes? Well, that nightmare became a reality for me. You see, I had a wedding to conduct at four o'clock in the afternoon, and we had some outdoor activities planned earlier in the day. So I grabbed my dress clothes, which I would wear for the wedding, and threw them in the car, planning to change once I got to church. At around three o'clock my wife dropped me off. I took my suit which was on a hanger and walked up to my office. I took a shower, and went to grab for my pants from off of the hanger. But there were no pants on the hanger. I experienced some mild panic, but I thought, "surely, the pants slid off of the hanger and I will find them somewhere along the path I took coming to my office." Wrong. Mild panic quickly turned into terror! I called my wife on her cell phone, hoping to get her aid. No answer. What was I going to do? I had, at this time, about 15 minutes until I was to pray with the bride and about 20 minutes until I walked out with the groom to perform this wedding! What a sight it was going to be: hairy white legs sticking out from under the black pulpit robe! Yikes! Suddenly, our facilities manager walked in. I told him, "My nightmare has come true! The king has no clothes!" Fearlessly, he summed up the situation and provided the answer. "Pastor, the missionary closet has all you need." So, I found pants that fit, the nightmare ended, and the wedding went on.

Now, what if you had a nightmare that you lost your family. And it came true. This week, I heard from a man who is going through a divorce and the loss of his family. His nightmare was coming true. He was going to lose his newborn son, his wife lived in another country, and he seemed destined to a life of heartbreak. Sin and sadness have conspired together to bring hopelessness to this young man's life.

Every person has either known this situation personally or has encountered it in your family or in your friendships. I know it is present in every congregation in our day. We are so much like Israel in Nehemiah's day that had wandered from God and taken up with the foreign women of a pagan nation. We are infected with the sensuality of this present evil age.

But that never stopped God from bringing hope and healing for broken people then. And there is hope and healing for broken daddies and children today. There is, in fact, hope and healing for that pitiful man who wrote me the email. What I told that man is what I tell you today. And all I have to say is what I find in God's Word.

As I heard this story of pain I went to the sad story of David and his son Absalom. I would draw every father's attention to words that we never want to utter but words which we should all pay close attention to today. What does this father's lament tell us?

Few stories match the gripping grief-struck tale of David and Absalom. Two great truths can be seen in this passage that can bring hope to broken daddies and fractured families.

1. The secret sins of earthly fathers will brings sorrow to their families. And thus today is a day of repentance.

I say this based on the soul-shaking cry of King David as he learns of his rebellious son's tragic death, even as he was seeking his father's kingdom. David's cry, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!" is an awful statement of remorse and regret. And we hear in that cry and see in that story how it came about.

I am concerned as I repeat David's words that many will read this and know their own grief. I know that some reading this, though they have been forgiven and God is working redemption in their lives and families, will be drawn by the past pain to withdraw from this message, but I pray you will drawn by God to pray for others. I ask you as a fellow sojourner in the pathway of family pain to bear with me, my brothers. If you have known God's love, pray that in this message, the Word of God will do its mighty work in the hearts of unrepentant men—drawing them to see their sins, see their Savior and stand on His salvation on the cross to see hope. Will you join with me now, who have been healed of your own sins in this area, and bravely testify with me to the tragedy of what secret sin will do to man and his family?

Now let me return to this passage. It is a hard one for all of us. It is hard for those women who have suffered because of the sins of their husbands. It is hard for children who have suffered because of sin in their own homes. But we must look up to be healed or else forever wander hollow-eyed and depressed in the wilderness of our own seething pain. Jesus bids you look up to see your redemption drawing nigh.

But we must begin with confronting the terrible cry of David in this passage before us. How did David, how do broken daddies, end up with such a painful plea of the soul as to cry, "O my son, my son…?"

And here are the answers.

Such Remorse begins with Rejection

He rejected God's law and it set into effect a judgment that reached down through his generations. David rejected God's law with his many wives. This was never condoned by God and was a direct rejection of God's intention. Jesus said of the unbiblical marital arrangements in his day that it was not so in the beginning.

"He who created them from the beginning made male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

And Paul teaching on the marriage to one woman qualification for an officer in the Church further instructs us on the intention of God, that man should have one wife. David rejected this.

David also rejected the Law of God in coveting what was not his. When you break one commandment, you break them all. And David's sensual sin caused him to worship the flesh, have other gods before him, and we could go through each commandment. He became deceived by the devil and succumbed to his own flesh and the result was devastating.

In Genesis chapter 6, the chapter where we see the Word of God that He will destroy the earth and the call for Noah to build an ark, God shows us the pathway to destruction. For that generation it began with men governing themselves by the lusts of the flesh rather than by God's will. For they took women who were the daughters of ungodly pagans rather than marrying a woman who was faithful. The result was that their sin bred violence in the land. Sexual sin is a sin against God's laws for life and always results in pain and even in violence in the land. Abortion is a result of such sin. The bloodletting of abortion in our land is a consequence, in the majority of the cases, of violating God's best intentions for our lives.

Men of God, the spirit of this age seeks to destroy your life by promising you fulfillment through sensuality. It is a lie from the pit of hell that must be rejected by trusting in Christ, honoring your wife, thinking of the great damage that could come to your children, and the horrors of hell.

The Rejection of the Father leads to the Rebellion of the Child

And David's children rebelled. The sin of Amnon with Tamar, the sin of Absalom against his brother (which should have been handled according to the law not through vigilantism which only compounds the crises), and the sin of Absalom against his father's kingdom, all came about as a direct rebellion against David. Nathan the Prophet prophesied this after David's heinous crime of adultery and murder.

Covenant children rebel when they see duplicitous living in their parents' lives. Covenant children rebel when they see a demand for holiness that their parents do not adhere to. But let us be careful to say that the child is responsible before God for his own faithfulness to God. And children, the Bible instructs you to turn to Jesus now. Your parents are not perfect. And you cannot use their sins to disguise your own. God calls you to repent and to be obedient to them and should they fall, then be obedient to God the Father and continue to pray for and show honor to your parents no matter their condition. This God will bless.

The Rebellion of Children to the Father's sin leads to a Repeating of the Sin

Thus, the rebellion led to a repeating of sins in David's own household. Amnon and Tamar represent a rebellion that tragically mimicked David's own lustful situation with Bathsheba. Absalom, who sought revenge of his full sister against the half brother, Amnon, represented the murderous act of David, who had Bathsheba's husband killed in battle.

The warning of God is clear:

You shall not bow down to them or serve them [speaking of the gods of the surrounding nations]; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me (Deuteronomy 5:9).

There was a ruckus that happened in a little Scottish village. Stores were broken into, damage was done on a Saturday night spree by youth. One of the men in the town darted out of his house with a big stick. He began to follow the suspected pathway of the wayward youths. He marked all of the signs of their presence, noted all of the damage they did along the way, followed closely, and came to a house. It was his own.

The truth is that the children follow us all the way.

Today is a Day of Repentance for Men who are caught in Sensual Sin

Many of you may be familiar with the sad marriage of the great Russian playwright, Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy's marriage was a saga of bitterness. His wife carped and complained and clung to her grudges until he could not bear the sight of her. When they had been married almost a half a century, sometimes she would implore him to read to her the exquisite, poignant love passages that he had written about her in his diary forty-eight years previously, when they were both madly in love with each other. As he read of the happy days that were now gone forever, they both wept bitterly.

God does not want you to weep bitterly as you think of what could have been. God is the business of transforming lives today, giving hope today. And new life begins with the rejection of the old, which has brought sorrow, and the embracing of the new, which brings life. And today is a day that God has visited you and called you to return to Him. Today is a day when you must see the awful consequences of your sin. Though your sin be done in secret, the defiance of God in the most private areas will become the devastation of your family and your soul in the most public of ways. Do not go another moment without confession of sin and a prayer to Almighty God for His deliverance and His hope.

Jesus said that if your eye offends you, pluck it out. And Jesus was using extreme language to address a heart issue that demands extreme and immediate attention. It is a call to repent, to turn from the sin in order to embrace healing and renewal and life. And the way to turn from something that is powerful is to be compelled by a greater power. And the power is the power of God's love in Jesus Christ. The power is something you can relate to now: the power of God the Father in His brokenness in sending His only begotten Son for you.

And this is the second and final truth I bring from this passage for Father's Day:

2. The holy love of our heavenly father through the suffering of His one and only Son will bring salvation to broken daddies and their broken children. And thus this is a day of resurrection hope.

David's cry ended with "My Son, my son" but Jesus' cry, in David's place, was "My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?"

The cry of David was the cry of a broken daddy.

The cry of Jesus was the cry of a forsaken Son.

The cry of David came from failure to follow God's plan for living.

The cry of Jesus came from fulfillment of God's plan of salvation for those who have failed.

The cry of David brought only more remorse.

The cry of Jesus on the cross brings miraculous resurrection.

There is not a case that ever comes before me that causes me to say, "Well, no hope here. No way to mend this. No answers." No, my beloved, God in Christ is a Redeemer. He came to bind up wounds and set captives free. Paul said of His saving work:

Broken daddies—from Adam, whose sinful son Cain murdered Abel to Abraham whose sinful unbelief led to seeing his first born son, Ishmael, led away with his mother from the camp; to David, pale in comparison with the brokenness that had to occur as a result of a covenant between God the Father and God the Son. For it was ordained from before the foundation of the world that God the Son would leave His Father's glorious presence in heaven to come down to live with men, to be rejected by the very ones He came to save, and then to be abandoned on the Cross with all of the wrath of God coming down on His pure soul. But you see, broken daddies and fractured families are healed by the brokenness of God the Father sending His Son to be forsaken on Calvary's Cross for you. And not only that, but in Jesus' being forsaken by His Father on the cross, He was sent to the grave. But God did not leave Him there, but raised Him up on the third day. And forever more, praise the name of Jesus, there is hope and renewal for broken daddies and fractured families through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For our sake he made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

And there is reconciliation for estranged families, renewal and hope for remorseful fathers and mothers, restoration for prodigal children, through Jesus Christ:

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant (Colossians 1:19-23).

I believe with all of my heart and I have experienced it through all of my life that through Jesus Christ the Redeemer, families can be brought together, marriages can be healed, abandoned spouses and children can be ministered to and given a new life, heart broken children can be mended, and the cycle of pain that afflicts generations can be immediately snapped by the broken daddy, broken not by remorse but by repentance before a holy God who is quick to receive you back because of His Son Jesus.

And maybe you are like the young father who wrote me. You don't see a way out. You don't see how God can redeem your situation. You look into the future and see pain and more pain because of your sin or the sin of another.

I end with the words of a wise woman, Elisabeth Elliot:

The disorders and sorrows in my own life, whether attributable solely to my own fault, solely to somebody else, perhaps to a mixture of both, or to neither, have given me the change to learn a little more each time of the meaning of the cross. What can I do with the sins of others? Nothing but what I do with my own — and what Jesus did with all of them — take them to the cross. Put them down at the foot and let them stay there. The cross has become my home, my rest, my shelter, my refuge.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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