Thoroughly Equipped: Bitter and Estranged

Hey, Friends!  This post was written on May 29, but I had technical difficulties with my website.  We are now back up and running!  Blessings!

Today’s reading is 2 Samuel 14:1-15:22, John 18:1-24, Psalm 119:97-112, Proverbs 16:8-9.

On this Memorial Day holiday, I am spending time at the lake with my family.  It is a blessed event when I can see my older kids who now have homes of their own.  Not everyone could come and though I have totally enjoyed the time with those who could, there is always a small hole that is left for those who aren’t here.  Things seem a little off, quieter.  Almost as if something is missing, which is truly the case.  And as I sit here, enjoying the beauty of the place, I am reading of another family who have something—someone—missing.  This is King David’s family.  I am grateful that my “missing pieces” are not here simply because of a scheduling conflict, for the missing piece of King David’s family is absent because of a great rift in the family.  Absalom, David’s son, is estranged from the family.  The great rift started when a half-brother of Absalom, Amnon, brutally raped his sister, Tamar.  Absalom nobly took in Tamar, but instead of seeking true justice, took matter into his own hands and brutally killed Amnon.  So, David is left with one son dead, one daughter devastated, and one son estranged.  If you ever think your family is messed up, just remember this story!  And this was the family of David, the man after God’s own heart.

The Bible does not try to sugar coat anything.  It tells a true story of real people.  It tells the dysfunction and the devastation.  But it also tells of an active God working his way of Redemption.  No one is too far gone, no family is too messed up, for God not to work a redemptive plan in the end.  Remember, this family eventually produced the Savior of the world in its descendants.

As is usually the case, unresolved conflict and unprocessed tragedy leads to more conflict and more tragedy.  And such was the case in this story.  In today’s reading, we see a plan that David’s general, Joab, orchestrates.  Joab knew that the King longed to see his estranged son, Absalom, despite what he had done.  And so, he sent for a woman from Tekoa who had a reputation for great wisdom.  She concocted a story about her two sons who had a fight, resulting in the death of one of them.  She begged for mercy for the living son, who was in danger of being killed for killing his brother.  David showed mercy to her and promised to protected the living son, despite his crime.  She then revealed the true purpose of her visit with these words:

13 She replied, “Why don’t you do as much for the people of God as you have promised to do for me? You have convicted yourself in making this decision, because you have refused to bring home your own banished son. 14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.

                                                                        2Samuel 134:13-14

I love that last sentence: “But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.” So true.  God is a God of reconciliation.  He wants to restore our families.  He wants to devise ways to bring us back to Him and back together with each other.  But, we must be willing to be brought together again.

The woman’s words made their mark on the Daddy-heart of King David, and Absalom was allowed to return back to Jerusalem.  However, though the geographical distance had lessened, the emotional distance had not.  Unforgiveness gripped both of these family members.  David would not allow Absalom in his presence.  He was allowed back home but not back to the heart of David.

Now, Absalom was used to getting his way.  He was handsome and charming.  He even had good hair!  (2 Samuel 14:26). He had three sons, a mark of honor in those days, and he had a gorgeous daughter, who he named after his devastated sister, Tamar.  This seemed like a noble and good thing—honoring the bereaved sister with a name-sake.  But could it be that it was a way to keep the bitter root solidly planted in the soil of Absalom’s heart?  Could it be that this daily reminder of his sister, kept him justifying his sin?   And this bitterness, coupled with all of his other traits, led to an impatient, prideful man, furious that he could not have what he wanted.   To get the ball rolling faster, he set fire to Joab’s fields.  This forced Joab to discuss the situation of Absalom with King David, and finally, the father-son reunion took place.

I kind of wish the story could have ended with chapter 14, verse 33.

Then at last David summoned Absalom, who came and bowed low before the king, and the king kissed him.

                                                                                    2 Samuel 14:33

Ahhh!  Sweet reunion!  I want them to hug and say “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” and go fishing together, rejoicing in their reconciliation.  But it appears the pride and bitterness in the heart of Absalom was in full bloom.  He worked his way back to the King’s good graces, only to betray him later.

What can we learn from all of this?  Several things come to mind.

  • Bad things happen to good, God-fearing families.
  • Unforgiveness and estrangement is a heavy, painful, and unnecessary burden to bear. It helps neither side.
  • The root of bitterness and the plague of pride can unhinge any relationship.
  • Reconciliation is possible, but both parties have to be willing to reconcile. Both parties have to rid themselves of bitterness and pride.  Both parties must take a step toward each other.  But remember, if you are the only one stepping, at least the distance is not so great between you; at least you have laid down part of the heavy, sinful burden of bitterness and unforgiveness.
  • Remember it takes time. Give each other space to heal.  But don’t allow too much time to pass, or you will encounter many more problems to deal with.
  • The most important thing to remember is that God is the Redeemer, the Repairer of broken things. He is the great Reconciler.  Turn to him with every painful problem, and praise Him despite your circumstances, remembering that only He can bring good from the bad.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

                                                                  Romans 12:18

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