David is walking a long, miserable road. We have seen David deal with a number of tremendous obstacles. But this trial may be his toughest yet. “David was climbing the slope of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he ascended. His head was covered, and he was walking barefoot. Each of the people with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they ascended” (2 Samuel 15:30). What happened? Why is David leaving Jerusalem? Why is he crying? Why is everyone who is with him weeping? You would suppose that there is a famine in the land or that he had lost a war. No, but ask David about his family and you have found the source of his pain. In our last lesson we read about David committing the sin of adultery and then compounding the sin with more sins as he attempted to cover up the adultery. The consequences from these sins are being played out in ways that David could not have imagined. Too often we think we know what the consequences of our actions will be. But we cannot fully grasp how far the impact of our sins reach. Years and years have passed by since David has committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba.
The first incident is recorded in 2 Samuel 13. Amnon is one of David’s sons. Tamar is one of David’s daughters through a different marriage. Amnon finds Tamar to be beautiful and wants her so he comes up with a scheme to get her alone so he can rape her. Once this awful sin is done, Amnon violates God’s law again. Deuteronomy 22 commanded that he was to pay a sizeable fine and be married to Tamar for the rest of her life. Rather than obey these commands, Amnon sends her away. In verse 20 we are told that Tamar lived as a desolate woman in the house of her brother Absalom. It is time for David to do something. His son has done something egregious and awful. What will David do?
When King David heard about all these things, he was furious (13:21). David does nothing else. In fact, the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures has this addition: “When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn” (NRSV). It is clear that this is exactly the problem, whether stated or unstated. David does nothing. David is upset at Amnon for what he did, but did not do anything about it. This reminds us of Eli in 1 Samuel who was upset about what his sons were doing with the sacrifices, but would not do something. The law needed to be enforced by the king of Israel. At the very least, Amnon needed to pay the penalty of a monetary fine and he was required by law to marry her. Tamar’s humiliation is exponentially worse by Amnon not marrying her. Even worse, David does nothing for Tamar. There is no justice given to her. Since David would do nothing, Absalom did. Two years later Absalom waits for a moment when Amnon is drunk and has his servants kill him. After this, Absalom fled.
Application 1: I think we quickly see the consequences of not obey the important commands of God concerning parenting. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Where is David’s training of Amnon? He needed to bring Amnon in and discipline him, banish him, punish him, or do something except ignore what Amnon had done. We train our children by enforcing the rules. When we do not enforce the rules, we train our children that disobedience is acceptable. When we do not enforce the rules, we train our children to know that our words as parents are useless. There is no such thing as “hands off” parenting. Good parenting means enforcing the rules. If we want our children to be quiet, then we have to teach them to be quiet. If we want our children to be respectful, then we have to teach them how to be respectful. If we want our children to behave, then we have to teach them how to behave. It does not happen by magic. As we are going to see throughout our lesson today, undisciplined children will come back to haunt you.
The second parenting principle that David ignored is to not provoke his children to wrath. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). David provoked Tamar and Absalom to wrath. “Now Tamar was wearing a long-sleeved garment, because this is what the king’s virgin daughters wore. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long-sleeved garment she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away weeping” (2 Samuel 13:18-19). Concerning Absalom, we also see him provoke to wrath: “Absalom didn’t say anything to Amnon, either good or bad, because he hated Amnon since he disgraced his sister Tamar” (13:22). Not enforcing the rules brings wrath. Children get upset when the rules are not enforced. They want boundaries. They want to know what the rules are and children will act out until they find where a parent’s boundaries are.
At the end of chapter 13 we see that Absalom remained in exile for three years. After the three years pass, Absalom is allowed to return to Jerusalem, from the work of Joab. But he still does not see David. For the next two year, David still does not go and see his son Absalom even though he is now dwelling in Jerusalem. More than five years pass and Absalom wants to see his father David, but David does not seem to allow this to take place. To get his father’s attention, Absalom sets fire to Joab’s field so that he can get a message to his father. 2 Samuel 14:32 records the message which basically states that Absalom says there is no point that he has come back if he is going to be ignored. “If I am guilty, let him kill me.” Finally, Absalom is allowed to go before king David, which is how chapter 14 concludes.
It becomes clear over the following chapters that this time of silence has embittered Absalom. He flees because David did not bring justice against Amnon for the sake of Tamar. David does not seek to bring him back. Joab, after three years, retrieves Absalom, only to be ignored by David for another two years.
Application 2: We have already mentioned that children seek justice from their parents. We also learn from this story that children seek approval from their parents. I think all of us can remember back to when that approval was so important. And even as adults, to a certain degree, we would like to have the approval and love of our parents. So we see that there are two important things we must offer as parents. We need to bring discipline, training our children to act and speak properly. Undisciplined children will come back to haunt us, just as Absalom is going to come back and bring great pain and suffering to David. But we cannot simply be the strict disciplinarian. We also must show approval and love. Children will not have any reason to obey our rules if they do not receive positive feedback for doing well. They want to be approved by us. If by acting well, we do not show them love and attention, then they will act out wickedly to get our attention. We see this is Absalom. Absalom figures that if he is going to be ignored, he will set fire to Joab’s field to get David’s attention. Disobedience is often an attempt to find attention because they have not felt approval when they have done what is right. Children need our training. But children also need our approval, our love, and our protection.
Chapter 15 reveals the state of Israel after David’s sin. Read the first six verses of chapter 15. Absalom is sitting at the gate of Jerusalem and would settle grievances that people were bringing to the king. Absalom then shows himself to be the perfect politician, stealing the hearts of the people by promising justice if he were a judge over the land. By implication, it seems that David had difficulty bringing justice against others after his own sin. The hearts of the people would not have been swayed if they were receiving this kind of justice from David already. But Absalom establishes himself up as the true giver of justice. This sets up Absalom’s revolt against David. It is under all of these circumstances that we read David climbing the Mount of Olives, weeping as he ascended, with head covered and feet bare.
Application 3: Sin paralyzed David. In every story that we have looked at in this section, it seems that David’s sin and his guilt paralyzed him from acting justly toward others. He did not bring justice against Amnon for the sake of Tamar. He seems unable to understand his son Absalom, and ignores him for over five years, embittering his son all the more. The people find better judgments from Absalom than they do from David. This problem still happens today where we are paralyzed to act properly because of our past sins.
How many times I have seen people on television and heard people on radio argue that they cannot discipline their children because they acted the same way as their children did. Parents will say that they did drugs when they were younger, so how can they condemn their children? Parents will say that they were sexually immoral when they were younger, so how can they condemn their children? Parents will say that they got drunk when they were younger, so how can they condemn their children for the same activities? But notice that this kind of thinking came back to haunt David. By not disciplining and training his children and not giving justice, Absalom came back and rain David out of Jerusalem. Just because we have made mistakes does not mean that we do not have the right to teach our children how to act. We hear this same nonsense in Christianity. You are a sinner so how can you talk to me about my sin! Easily. What I did was wrong and what you are doing is wrong. That is all we have to tell our children and that is all we have to tell one another. Just because I have done something wrong does not mean you are not doing something wrong. If you were sexually immoral, or did drugs, or got drunk or whatever, you tell your children that what you did was wrong and that is why they should not act like we acted.
We only compound our sins when we do not learn from our sins and do not help others to learn from our sins. Why would we want others to commit the same mistakes that we made? Do not be embarrassed by your past but use your past to teach your children why what you did was wrong. They will respect you when you are honest about your mistakes and you show that your concern is that they do not go through the same pain you went through.
The story concludes when Joab kills Absalom. David loses yet another son and it seems the reason why is because David lost control of his children, not teaching them but provoking them to wrath instead.
- “Training your children in the way they should go” means enforcing your rules. Undisciplined children will come back to haunt you.
- Children seek our approval. Commend them for obedience or else they will disobey to get our attention.
- Do not let your past mistakes and sins paralyze you from teaching your children what is right and wrong. Bring justice, even if you made the same mistake yourself.