What does it say?

David flees Jerusalem to save his life (2Sam 16). As he flees, Shimei, a relative of Saul, curses David. As Absalom moves to consolidate his power in the capital, Ahithophel counsels him to go into his father’s harem, a horrific offense, calculating that this would make reconciliation between David and his son impossible.

Ahithophel advises Absalom to immediately pursue David with overwhelming force and eliminate him (2Sam 17). Hushai, faithful to David, gives different advice to buy time for David. The plan works as Absalom heeds his counsel. Hushai sends word to David.  Ahithophel understands the consequences of having his counsel rejected, goes home and commits suicide.

Given a bit of time, David orders his men to face Absalom’s troops in pursuit (2Sam 18). His military leader Joab knows that the only way to end this civil war is to strike the leader, though David has given instructions to deal gently with Absalom. Absalom was proud of his beautiful long hair, but his hair is caught in a tree and Joab is quick to kill him. Grief overcomes David at the death of Absalom.

What does it mean?

Probably all of this horrible conflict could have been avoided had David dedicated the same passion, wisdom and effort to his marriage and family as he did to being a military leader, king and psalmist. He was a terrible father. His grief over Absalom’s death shows he truly loved his children, but he probably never communicated that well to them. Having multiple wives made a good, scripturally based marriage impossible. God did use David mightily, but many of his trials were self-inflicted and his life filled with contrasts.

Many of our problems are probably also self-inflicted. A good marriage and family requires hard work, discipline and faith. God gives us grace to obey him if we are willing. Though David doubtless loved his son to some degree, it is probable that many of his feelings are induced by the guilt of having been a poor father. This guilt-induced love that came too late and the resulting overwhelming guilt blinds David and limits his ability to make good decisions for the benefit of the kingdom.

How will I respond?

As David’s self-inflicted wounds hamper him in his ability to make good choices for the benefit of the kingdom, how do my own self-inflicted problems or lack of responsibility in personal matters blind me to my place of engagement in God’s mission? What is one step I can take today to eliminate some self-inflicted problem in my life that hinders me in God’s mission?