Sometimes we fall in love, and one day we wake up to find that someone or something is the most significant source of our pain and trouble. Sometimes it’s the ebbs and flows of life; other times, it’s more damaging. That dream has become the nightmare. How long do we cling to it while it’s destroying us? I’ve held on to toxins with a fervor that rivals King David’s when it came to his son Absalom. Why do we hold onto things until our hands are bloody? One reason is that the dream, person, thing, or idea has eclipsed God and even ourselves; it’s become the center of our universe, the god for which we sacrifice and live. Every idol ends up causing us pain. Ancient idolatrous religions believed in painful sacrifice for miracles from their gods, these idols we cling do, do the same. (1 Kings 18:26)
… he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’Acts 13:22
Reality Shows And Revolt
God called David, “A man after my own heart,” but the amount of dysfunction in his family is reality-show worthy. David’s oldest son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar, so Tamar’s full brother Absalom killed Amnon. King David had a weakness for his kids. David didn’t discipline them or give them any consequences for their actions. One raped his sister, the other killed him, and two of his sons tried to usurp his throne. His son, Absalom, was an incredibly handsome and charismatic kid and the favorite son of King David. The king blinded himself that Absalom was turning his own people against him. Absalom built a revolt under King David’s nose because David loved his idol, Absalom, more than the truth. In fact, 2 Samuel 15 explains it and says Absalom “stole” the hearts of the people of Israel. Our hearts can be stolen through manipulation.
And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.” Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.” And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.2 Samuel 15:2-6
Absolem used political tactics that are still in play today. He intercepted King David’s people who came to King David for justice. Absalom told them the king didn’t have any solutions for their problems. He sympathized and assured them if he was king, he’d give then what they needed. For four years, Absalom worked on the hearts of the people campaigning with lies, slander, and manipulation. One day Absalom came to his father, King David, and pleaded to go to Hebron. Absalom said he wanted to fulfill a vow he made to God and worship there. David believed Absalom’s words instead of the truth and sent Absalom to Hebron with his blessing. Hebron is where Absalom staged the attack on David’s kingdom and takeover of his father’s throne. I’ve been there, hoping for, and believing someone so much that I justified their behavior as facts told me otherwise.
The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.” The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”[a]2 Samuel 18:32-33
Mourning The Loss
Long story short, Absalom led the revolt, tried to kill his father, usurp the throne, and died. Had David disciplined him earlier, things probably would have turned out differently. When David heard the news that his kingdom was saved and the threat was gone, he cried. This wasn’t a joyful cry of the victorious, but a grievous, groaning cry. He verbally wished that he had died instead of Absalom. This cry in 2 Samuel 18:32-33 almost cost him his army and his kingdom. He degraded the sacrifices they made for him and his kingdom for which they risked life and limb. Due to David’s reactions, heroes, the very ones that should have been honored, were ashamed. Why do we mourn the loss of someone or something that caused our loved ones and us heartache and pain?
Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.” The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”2 Samuel 19: 1-4
We All Need A Joab
Every time I read 2 Samuel 19, I want a Joab of my own, but a little gentler. We all need someone who will talk with us plainly, even at the risk of making us angry. He had the guts and access to speak the truth to David. Kings could have anyone punished for the slightest reason, so people were afraid to tell him anything even slightly controversial. Anyone with power can become corrupt when they block out the truth from their ears, and we are no different. If we want to let our idols go, we must be willing to accept the facts without punishing the messenger. The fact that Joab had that relationship with David was a testament to them both. Joab was harsh, but David could have lost everything if he didn’t take immediate action. Sometimes the harsh truth is there to make us take immediate action.
Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”2 Samuel 19
Pain, Truth, And Freedom
In the past, I’ve clung so hard to my idols that my hands were a bloody mess for holding on. Only when I’ve lost so much blood and endured excruciating pain was I willing to let go of some of my idols. When I am hard on myself, I consider a King who lived 3,000 years ago, and I know that I’m not so different. I’ve allowed idols to gain power underneath my nose until they were on the verge of destroying me. Difficulties in my life serve to bang my bloodied hands on a counter, helping me release the grip of the spikes digging into my flesh. If we believe that the truth sets us free, we need to find our own Joab and embrace the truth. God doesn’t delight in our pain but sends the truth that sometimes hurts to free us from our bondages. True love can hurt, but this hurt is for our good, idol pain only hurts to keep us bound.
God, I give you my idols, some might be a blessing you provided initially, but they have become gods in my life. Please help me to pay attention to the pain and stress I feel, the possible sign that something isn’t right. I choose to humble myself to believe your truth, not the truth of any man but yours. Please give it to me, bring me a Joab, and I will be open to what he says. In Jesus’ name.
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted,Proverbs 27:5-6
but an enemy multiplies kisses.