(Recommended Reading: 2 Samuel 13 – 19:18 – Quotes from NLT)
In my Mother’s Day article I said: “We do not read the impactful kind of stories in the Bible about Mothers like we do about Fathers.” There are so very many stories in the Bible about fathers – some of them are examples of excellent fathers, some of them are very poor examples of fathers.
Take Adam – the first human father. As a man, he strayed from the instructions of his Creator and as a result left the world to forever deal with sin and the consequences of that sin. He apparently did not do a very good job of guiding his sons to be good men either, because his son Cain murdered his own brother Abel out of jealousy.
The story of Abraham is interesting, because at the instructions of the Lord, he took his only son Isaac to a mountain and was going to sacrifice him. However, he proved his love for his Lord with the obedience he exhibited and his son Isaac was delivered. This traumatic experience could have marred Isaac for life – causing resentment and bitterness. But instead, because of his father Abraham’s obedience and trust in God, he also learned obedience and trust in God.
Jacob was the father of 12 sons but showed blatant favoritism toward his young son Joseph. This caused jealousy to pervade the other sons and created a very difficult situation with the siblings. Although Jacob’s actions created unthinkable results with how Joseph was treated by his siblings, God made all things good and right in the end. Thank goodness He can turn our flaws around for good.
The story I came across one morning recently in my study time was in 2 Samuel 13 thru 19 and it caused the idea for this article to form. In this story, David is the established king and one of his sons – Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar, the sister of David’s son Absalom. Amnon then rejects Tamar and in her shame she lives in Absalom’s home. The story says that when David heard about what had happened, he was angry; but, he apparently took no other steps to discipline Amnon. However, Absalom deeply hated his brother and two years later, Absalom invents a plot to bring Amnon near to him, then has him murdered out of revenge for what he had done to Tamar and then he flees.
We are told that David mourned for days over the death of Amnon, but there is no mention of any grief over the loss of his son Absalom. Three years later he yearned to be reconciled with Absalom. David eventually sent for him but instructed that Absalom live in his own home and not come before him. After two years of living like this Absalom entreated his father to allow him back into his life and David submits. By all appearances Absalom was grateful to be back in his father’s good graces. But then, he rebels. He turns on his father and strives very hard to gain the admiration and loyalty of the people of Israel. After four years he had enough confidence to try to overthrow his father as king.
David heard of what was happening and out of fear of his son, he fled from Jerusalem – on the run to save himself. Absalom and his troops were aggressively pursuing David and his men. Finally David’s men were going to confront their enemies and as they departed “…the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: ‘For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.’ And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.” (2 Samuel 18:5) What grace! He is being pursued, knowing he will be killed if they catch him, yet he wants his pursuer treated “gently.”
In chapter 14:25-26a we are told “Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy…” I suspect this was cause for him to be very arrogant and that arrogance caused him to believe he could win the hearts of the people and that he could destroy his own Father in order to become king. But…this likely resulted in his tragic ending. Chapter 18:9-14 says: “During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, ‘I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.’ ‘What?’ Joab demanded. ‘You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver and a hero’s belt!’ ‘I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,’ the man replied to Joab. ‘We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.’ ‘Enough of this nonsense,’ Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree.”
When word reached David that Absalom, his betrayer and pursuer, was dead he was devastated. There was no relief for him at all. Chapter 18:33 says: “The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, ‘O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.’” The depth of this Father’s love is amazing, considering what he was going through. However, the depth of his grief spilled over to all Israel and finally his army commander, Joab, went before him to chastise him – warning him that if he did not stop and go before the people showing his gratitude for their loyalty that he would lose them forever. So, David did the right thing – picked up his life and moved forward.
That story fascinated me. It was puzzling to me how a father, even though angry, could overlook such a horrible act of sin from his one son, Amnon, yet react so harshly toward his son Absalom for the revenge taken because of his love and respect for his sister Tamar. Then after allowing Absalom back into his life, he was betrayed and pursued knowing death was likely if caught – yet wanted no harm to come to his son and had unparalleled grief when Absalom was killed. A father’s love that seemed to be all over the spectrum.
However, when talking about a father’s love, I cannot neglect to talk about one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It exhibits the wonderful love a father can have for a child in the story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32) This story tells about a son that basically turns his back on all his father has taught him. He takes his share of his inheritance, leaves his home, then through sinful living squanders everything. He then returns home ashamed and ready to ask for forgiveness and face his fate. But what he finds is a loving, forgiving, accepting father that has been waiting and watching for the return of his beloved son – he was forgiven and restored fully by his father.
This story is the perfect example of how we can be restored to our heavenly Father, no matter what we have done. We only need to recognize our sin and ask for forgiveness. He never changes and is always faithful. We can depend on Him. He is strong. He is wise. He is love. God the Father is the perfect example for earthly fathers and the love they should embody.
Happy Father’s Day to all the men out there, that although imperfect, can reflect the love of their heavenly Father and be a blessing to their family!
“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”
Written by Karran Martin – May 15, 2021