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DAVID’S LAMENTATION OVER ABSALOM
2 Samuel 18:33. And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and, as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!
THIS life is at best a chequered scene: the happiness of man is rarely of long continuance; nor is it ever altogether without alloy: the sweetest cup we taste has always in it, either in a greater or less degree, an infusion of gall: it is in heaven alone that our blessedness is complete. David had attained a full possession of the throne of Israel: but troubles arose to him from various quarters, and especially from his own family; even his own son rose up in rebellion against him, to dethrone him. The rebellion was scarcely matured before it was quashed: but alas! his son, his favourite son, was slain: and how bitterly he laid to heart this calamity, may be seen from the words which we have now read.
We propose to notice,
The grief of David for the loss of Absalom—
This was in some respects right and commendable—
[He did well in mourning for the death of a son. God has put into the heart of parents a love for their offspring: and indeed such a love was necessary to counterbalance the cares and troubles which a family entails. That love of necessity contains in it the seeds of sorrow, when evil befalls the offspring, or death snatches them away. Even the irrational creation are deeply penetrated with this feeling, and manifest it in a very high degree, whenever the loss of their offspring calls it into exercise. We wonder not, therefore, that a man of David’s piety should greatly bewail the death of his favourite son. We do not disapprove of him when for seven successive days he wept, and fasted, and prayed for the life of his dying infant; much less can we blame his grief for a son of mature age and eminent accomplishments.
But still more was his grief justified, when we consider the circumstances under which his son was taken away. Absalom, alas! was very unfit to die: he was a man of an abandoned character. He was an assassin, and had murdered his own brother Amnon. He was a rebel against the king whom God himself had called to the throne, even against his own father. He was, in heart at least and design, a murderer of his own father: for when the proposal was made by Achitophel so to contrive the attack as to destroy his father only, it was highly gratifying to this unnatural son. Moreover, for the express purpose of making himself “abhorred by his father,” and or precluding all possibility of reconciliation with him, “he went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.” Such was the state of Absalom, when death arrested him. What a tremendous load of guilt was here, under the whole of which he expired, without any space given him for repentance! Well then might David weep for him, even tears of blood. David well knew the misery of those who died in their sins, and had often wept for the inconsiderateness of those who overlooked their danger: well therefore might he weep as he did for the miserable end of Absalom.]
In other respects it certainly was wrong—
[The dispensation was indeed most afflictive; but still it called for different feelings in the mind of David. In it there was a mixture of mercy and of judgment: and, if he had viewed it aright, his sorrows would have been tempered with resignation and gratitude. The death of Absalom was in part a punishment of David’s sin in the matter of Uriah; and therefore when the judgment was inflicted, he should, like Aaron, have “held his peace [Note: Leviticus 10:3.],” or have said, like Eli, “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good [Note: 1 Samuel 3:18.].” The death of Absalom was also a mercy both to David and to all Israel, inasmuch as it put a speedy end to the calamities of civil war, and was the means of re-establishing David on the throne of Israel. Should not this then have called for thanksgiving on the part of David? Yet behold, there was but too much justice in the remark of Joab, that David was insensible of all these mercies; and that he would have been better pleased with the loss of all his faithful adherents that had exposed their lives for him, than of this graceless wretch who had sought his destruction [Note: 2 Samuel 19:3-6.]. Surely such grief could not be justified: after all the allowance that must be made for the affection of a parent, and the compassion of a saint, we are constrained to acknowledge, that the feelings of David on this occasion were ill regulated and unchastised. He seems almost to have quarrelled with God, when he should rather have said, like Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord [Note: Job 1:21.]!”]
Much instruction however may be gathered from this expression of David’s grief. Let us proceed to consider,
The lessons it is calculated to teach us—
Much instruction does it impart,
To men in general—
[It teaches us loudly to moderate our affections towards the creature. Whatever God bestow upon us, we are apt to fix our affections too strongly on it, and to forget that it is a loan rather than a gift: we forget that it still remains the Lord’s, and that he has a right to call for it whenever he will. Hence if it he unexpectedly withdrawn from us, we are ready to grieve and murmur, as if every source of happiness were cut off from us: because a cistern is broken, we lament, as if the fountain itself also were dried up. This is especially the case in reference to near and dear relations: but such inordinate regard to the creature is idolatry; and it will sooner or later bring its own punishment along with it.
It teaches us also to proportion our sorrows to the occasion. Sorrow is allowable, especially for the loss of our friends or relatives. So far was our Lord from condemning the grief of Martha and Mary for the death of their brother, that he himself joined in it; “Jesus wept.” Grief too on such occasions may sometimes be very deep. If, for instance, a minister be removed in the midst of all his usefulness, as Stephen was, there is good reason why “great lamentation should be made for him,” because the loss of such an one to the Church of God is incalculable [Note: Acts 8:2. If this be a Funeral Sermon, any observations respecting the character of the deceased may be introduced, where it best accords with the subject as here treated.]. If a man be not taken away in the midst of life, yet, if he have been eminently good and greatly distinguished, he may also be deeply lamented [Note: Genesis 50:7-11.]. Nor is this due to public characters only: private individuals also, who have rendered themselves useful in their day and generation, may well be thus deplored. Dorcas had laid herself out for the comfort and support of the poor: she had assisted them in the way that best suited her ability and their wants: and therefore when she was withdrawn by death, the loss of her was much bewailed, and a lively interest was excited to get her, if possible, restored to life [Note: Acts 9:36-39.]. Thus a concern for the general good may fitly increase the tide of our sorrows on the removal of any one by death: but there are occasions, as when any saint is released from a state of deep affliction and distress, when we may rather rejoice over them, as resting from their labours, and happy in the fruition of their God [Note: Revelation 14:13.]. But in any case we must guard against that inordinate sorrow which renders us unmindful of God’s mercies, or insensible of our own desert.]
To parents and children in particular—
[Parents, surely you may learn from the history before us to cut off all occasion for self-reproach in the event of your children’s death. No doubt David was too indulgent towards Absalom, and had forborne to punish him as he deserved. And what a bitter reflection it will be to you to think, that you had not exerted yourselves to the utmost of your power for the repressing of sin in your children, and the cultivating of an heavenly principle in their minds! You well know how God marked his indignation against Eli for this very thing [Note: 1Sa 2:27-34; 1 Samuel 3:13-14.]. His fault was, not that he encouraged his sons to sin, but that he did not exert himself with sufficient energy to reclaim them. O think what you will say, if you neglect to warn, to reprove, and to instruct your children! how will you answer it at the tribunal of God? Are ministers responsible for the souls committed to their charge? so are you for the children whom God has intrusted unto you. He has said to you, as Pharaoh’s daughter, “Take these and bring them up for me;” and, if they perish through your neglect, “their blood will be required at your hands.” Endeavour then to impress them with a sense of their duty to God. You often try to convince them how much you have loved them; but you are apt to forget to shew them how Christ hath loved them. David’s love to Absalom was nothing in comparison of Christ’s to them: Christ did not merely under a momentary conflict of mind wish that he had died for them; but he actually did die for them, yea, and endured the curse due to their sins, and left the bosom of his Father on purpose that he might do so; and foreseeing from eternity all that he must suffer, he formed the purpose, and never receded from it, till he had accomplished all that was necessary for their salvation: and all this he did, when they were in open rebellion against him. You may convince them of your love, and yet produce no permanent effect upon them; they may continue hostile both to God and you: but convince them of the love of Christ to them, and that will constrain them to live in all dutiful obedience both to God and man.
Children, learn ye also from this history to regard the instructions of your parents. See, in Absalom, the effect and recompence of wilful disobedience! And be careful not to grieve the souls of your parents, by constraining them to “sorrow for you as without hope.” If you die before them, what distress will your state occasion! or, if you survive them, how will they be pained in a dying hour to have no prospect of meeting you in a better world! Remember, that however much they love you now, they will be swift witnesses against you in the day of judgment; and all the efforts which they made for your salvation, will only aggravate your eternal condemnation. Be wise then in time, and labour, that whether you survive your parents or die before them, you may be their joy and crown of rejoicing to all eternity.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 18". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
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