Oh that I Would Have Died Instead of You
2Sam. 18:33 ¶ 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!”
Sadly, David's handsome, beautiful, and talented son had tried to pull off a coup or a putsch. The result was that suddenly father was pitted against son. The kingdom was being torn in two directions; those who followed David and those who had come to support Absalom. Unfortunately war broke out between the two factions. David reluctantly sent his troops to follow after Absalom. It was a rather half-hearted response. He knew the rebellion had to be squelched but at the same time he didn't want his son to be hurt. He still dearly loved his son.
Abasalom was traveling on his mule and as he passed under a dense oak tree his long tresses became caught up in the limbs. His mule went on without him and he was left there hanging, easy prey for David's forces. The men were reluctant to do anything for they knew how much the king loved his son, but they also knew that his rebellion was destroying the kingdom. They acted, and they killed him.
The report was brought to the king and while it meant that there would be peace in the kingdom and that his troops were victorious, yet the king mourned for his son. His love for his son reached down to the depths of his soul and the anguish of the father could be heard in the words, "Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
One of the most difficult things I have done in life is to walk with my parents into the chapel to view the body of my oldest brother, Jerry. He had been ill for many years, and yet, that didn't seem to prepare us for the day which we were facing. My father stood there looking at Jerry and said, "This just isn't right -- a child shouldn't die before their parent." Our hearts were broken as we looked on him lying there.
Reflecting on that moment I can understand the cry of David's heart. Yes, his son had turned against him, but that didn't matter. Absalom was still his son -- bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. He loved his son with all his being and it just wasn't right to have his son die before him. He would have preferred to have died in the place of his son. That's the deep love of a parent for their child.
And then there is our Father. Our heavenly Father. And if we think the love of earthly parents runs deep, this Father, the one who created us, is even more passionate and loving. His heart breaks when his children are hurting or suffering. Even when his children turn their back on him he pursues them. He desperately wants to save them and yet there are times when in our foolishness we take off just like Abasalom. God does not want to punish his children whom he deeply loves. David did not punish Absalom. He died because of his own foolish acts. He suffered the consequences of his own reckless behavior. David did not make him do any of that and at the end of the day, even with all the responsibility on Absalom, David's heart broke. And no matter what we do in life and how foolish we may act before God, his heart breaks for us. And while David could not die in the place of his son, God could die in the place for us. And he did.
Lord, thank you for that love for us that goes deeper than anything we can imagine. Amen.