First David, then his family, then a nation
2 Samuel 18:33 “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Sins: Many people think of them as parking tickets. If you get too many, the cops may track you down or give your car “the boot.” However, one or two here and there won’t make a big difference.
The Bible views sins more as cancer cells. One or two here and there do make a difference—often the difference between life and death. Because cancer cells grow, multiply and take over, major surgery may be needed to save your life.
Second Samuel 11—20 reads like the history of a spreading cancer. In the beginning, David was on top of the world—and so was Israel. The civil war was over, the land was at peace and Israel was entering an era of unprecedented prosperity. God had promised to ensure David’s descendants a continuous reign forever. What more could David hope for? The rest of life appeared as one long celebration.
The Cancer Grows
That celebration never began. One night David caught a glimpse of Bathsheba’s beautiful, naked body and impulsively sent for her. The cover-up required a murder. Nobody could deny it was an ugly business: Even David admitted it when Nathan confronted him. However, it was soon over. He repented. He married Bathsheba. He did not intend to fall for that temptation again.
But the consequences of the sin were far from over. Unknown to David, cancer was growing in his own household. David’s oldest son Amnon had an eye for women too. He tricked his half sister Tamar into his bedroom, then raped her. Afterward, filled with disgust, he threw her out.
David was furious. But, maybe because he felt his own sin had robbed him of moral authority, he did nothing to punish his son. According to the law (see Leviticus 18:9,29), Amnon deserved exile, but he got off free. David apparently wanted the matter forgotten.
A Cold-Blooded Character
The cancer merely disappeared from view. Absalom waited two full years to avenge his sister’s rape. Then he murdered Amnon in cold blood. Again David was long on regret, short on punishment. He wept over Amnon’s death but perhaps recognized his own responsibility for it. After three years David let Absalom return to Jerusalem unpunished; two years later, when Absalom angrily demanded either a murder trial or full acceptance back into the palace (see 2 Samuel 14:32), David kissed and made up completely.
Again the cancer disappeared from view. But it was not gone; it grew. Now an arrogant Absalom started a program of public relations designed to make him look better than his aging father. At the end of four years, having become quite popular, he set his coup in motion. Taken completely by surprise, David was driven out of Jerusalem into the desert.
The shock seemed to awaken David. Though dazed and weeping as he left the city, he had enough sense to make some clever plans. When the battle came at last, David’s army won, and Absalom was captured and killed.
Weeping for His Son
For David the king, Absalom’s defeat was a great triumph. For David the father, it was a horrible tragedy. The worst thing that can happen to a father had happened to him. His own son had tried to kill him, and in trying, had been killed. David could not stop weeping over his son’s death until Joab, his general, warned him that he was insulting the troops who had fought for him.
David pulled himself together. Piece by piece, he put his kingdom back in order. He sent conciliatory words to the rebellious leaders of his own tribe. He rewarded his supporters. He took no revenge on any rebel faction, but showed remarkable fairness. A second rebellion broke out but was soon put down. The cancer seemed finally to have run its course.
Yet it had not. David had no more trouble with rebellion in his lifetime, but after his death Solomon killed a brother whom he thought was scheming for the throne (see 1 Kings 2:25). After Solomon’s reign, the old tribal tensions rose again, and the north and the south, which David had so carefully knit together, split for good (see 1 Kings 12). Such may be the consequences when a leader sins. His cancer not only poisons him; it grows to affect all those he leads—and it undermines his work.
Many people will, at some point, see their well-run lives disintegrate. What enables someone to pick up the pieces, as David did?