King David didn't go to battle
with his men.
Oh, he would have, but the people wouldn't let him. "But you are worth ten thousand of us now." (2 Sam 18:3 NKJV)
Instead, he stayed and sat at the city gate, waiting for news of the battle. But would the news be good, or bad? At this point, David likely didn't know what to hope for. If Absalom's army won, it meant the end of his kingship, and more than likely, also his death. But if his army won, it would more than likely mean the death of his son and the heir to his throne! Defeat would be devastating, but victory would be bittersweet.
No, I don't envy David's vigil one tiny bit.
And then news came. Things went well in the battle. The enemy was defeated!
But the poor father couldn't be happy. His first words after hearing the news? "Is the young man Absalom safe?" (2 Sam 18:29 NKJV)
But his heart was not yet to be relieved: "When Joab sent the king's servant and me your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was about." (2 Sam 18:29 NKJV)
And so he waited yet awhile longer for the words he knew he would hear, but dreaded: "May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise against you to do harm, be like that young man!" (2 Sam 18:32 NKJV).
Was David happy about the victory? Maybe, but any joy he may have felt was thickly overshadowed by the grief in his heart. David went up into the tower over the gate and sat there grieving: "O my son Absalom - my son, my son Absalom - if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!" (2 Sam 18:33 NKJV)
The people didn't take David's grief well at all. They had just left their homes to follow David, and then risked their very lives to fight his battle. But in the end, the victory only brought grief to the king: "So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people. For the people heard it said that day, 'The king is grieved for his son.' And the people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle." (2 Sam 19:2-4 NKJV)
As a result, David was strongly admonished by his commander-in-chief: "Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines, in that you love your enemies and hate your friends. For you have declared today that you regard neither princes nor servants; for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well. Now therefore, arise, go out and speak comfort to your servants. For I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out, not one will stay with you this night. And that will be worse for you than all the evil that has befallen you from your youth until now." (2 Sam 19:5-8 NKJV)
So David had a choice: Continue grieving for his son and lose his kingdom, or put on a happy face and pretend it never happened.
I don't know about you, but that would have been a very difficult choice to make. On the one hand, my heart would be breaking for my son. But continuing to flounder in his grief would have ensured that David would never be able to move beyond all the bad things that had happened since that one little night with Bathsheba. The only way to move forward was to put on a happy face and sit at the gate. And this he did: "Then the king arose and sat in the gate. And they told all the people, saying, 'There is the king, sitting in the gate.' So all the people came before the king." (2 Sam 19:8 NKJV)
So what is the lesson we can learn from this ungrateful, grieving king?
Simply this: There are times when we are expected to be happy, but our hearts are heavy with sorrow. There are times when success brings grief. There are times when victory is bittersweet.
David could identify with those times.
So can God.
You see, God, too, lost His only Son. It was a bitter loss, but so necessary for the salvation of mankind. How it must have grieved the Father's heart, especially during those three days when Jesus lay in the grave! Victory, yes. But oh, so bittersweet!
Friends, the next time your moments of triumph come tinged with regret, remember you aren't alone. David knew how you feel, and, even more importantly, God knows how you feel!
Also remember that there is a time for mourning. David took time to mourn. But there is also a time to put it behind you and move forward. Living in the past will only bring about more sorrow.
I have a plaque in my office
Sorrow looks back …
Worry looks around …
Faith looks up."
Looking back will not bring us forward into abundant life. Whatever it is we are grieving, looking up in Faith to the One who understands our grief is the only thing that will bring us that abundant life!
Join us next week for LESSONS FROM DAVID'S FALL, Part 10: The Return of the King
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org, with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org.
(To access the entire "Lessons From David's Fall" mini-series, please click here.)