The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: ‘’O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you -- O Absalom, my son, my son!’’ Joab was told, ‘’The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.’’ And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, ‘’The king is grieving for his son.’’ The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. The king covered his face and cried aloud, ‘’O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’’ Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, ‘’Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left to you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.’’ So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, ‘’The king is sitting in the gateway,’’ they all came to him. . . . 2 Samuel 18:33-19:8
On hearing about the death of Absalom, King David went into mourning. He wished that he had died instead of his son Absalom: ‘’And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning . . . The men stole into the city as men steal in who are ashamed when they steal in from battle.’’
Twenty thousand soldiers had died in battle and David’s men had risked their lives to protect him and regain the kingdom from his son Absalom. But the only thing David cared about was the death of Absalom. Was it right for David to mourn for Absalom? Yes! Absolutely! But was his attitude toward the soldiers right? No! The nation had been saved and the soldiers who risked their lives to do so deserved better treatment than being left without appreciation and Absalom being David’s only concern. This also showed the inherent weakness of David when it came to objectively dealing with his family situation. It was difficult for him to deal with family reality.
The army commander, Joab, was right to snap David out of the unbalanced way in which he was looking at things. Joab warned David that he was risking the support of all his soldiers to the detriment of his own future. To his credit, David listened and a bad outcome was averted.
Sometimes, a strong talk is what we need to help us to be objective and face reality. Without strong people, who can speak boldly to us and point out our lack of objectivity, we might end up jeopardizing things for all involved. Joab did a very difficult but necessary thing by talking quite harshly to King David. But that is exactly what the king needed.
Straight talks are never easy to give or receive. It could come from a family member, a spouse, a trusted friend or colleague. It takes humility to take it in but it is always worth it. It can avert unnecessary hardships!
Prayer: Father, I thank you for people who do not always tell me what I want to hear but what I truly need to hear. As unpleasant as those talks might be, please help me to humble myself and listen. Amen.