One of the most poignant pieces in scripture is found in the book of II Samuel. The story of David and Absalom is tragic, with all of its missed opportunities and misunderstanding. King David’s son Absalom has gone to war against his father. With mixed emotions, David sends troops into battle fighting his son. In an attempt to protect his son, he instructs his general, “Deal gently with the young man Absalom.” (II Samuel 18:5) We can imagine David waiting at the gate for word, wanting everything to turn out right for his precious son Absalom. David’s hope that the rebellion will end and his son restored to his household are crushed. He learns that Absalom is dead.
David’s cry of pain echos through the centuries, with heart wrenching words, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Samuel 18:33) It is the piercing cry of an anguished father . . . The words of every grieving parent, multiplied by regret.
I am struck by how much David’s love for his son, is like God’s love for us. We hear the kind of pain God has for us when we turn from God, reject God’s love, when we make mistakes that hurt us deeply. David’s cry of anguish over Absalom, is also the cry of God, whenever we are lost. God’s heart breaks when we stray far from God’s purposes and plans for our lives. Just as a parent aches for a child who wanders from their love, so God aches for us when we wander away. Then God goes searching for us in all the dark and lonely places we run to. Calling us back, tugging at our hearts, yearning for us to turn around and come home. And when we do, Jesus says there is joy in heaven.
“I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10