“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” -2 Samuel 14:14
This verse from 2 Samuel appears in the middle of the account of one of the greatest tragedies of King David’s life. His son Absalom had murdered David’s other son Amnon to avenge David’s daughter Tamar. Then Absalom had fled to Geshur where he stayed for three years. Second Samuel 13:39 tells us that David longed to go to Absalom but refused to do so. The verse above was spoken by a woman sent to David by Joab, David’s nephew and the commander of his army, who wanted to help David restore the relationship with his son. Unfortunately, though David chose to allow Absalom to return to Jerusalem, he still refused to meet with him face to face. Absalom became bitter, tried to steal the kingdom from David, and was murdered by Joab.
I wonder how things would have been different had David welcomed his son home with open arms . . . or at least with a little face time at the day’s equivalent of Starbuck’s.
We can’t be too hard on David, though. We don’t know what Absalom was like before Amnon assaulted Tamar. He may have been rebellious and threatening from the start. And murder is a serious offense. If David wasn’t comfortable allowing a murderer, even his own son, to live under his roof, near his wives and other children, I’m not sure we can fault him for that. Still the ultimate outcome was tragic. Absalom’s death broke David’s heart.
I love the insights of verse 14, however. This verse is all about God and His relationship with us—an example the woman encouraged David to follow regarding his son—one we can follow regarding close family members or friends who wound us. Let’s look at this verse more closely:
“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die.” We have wronged God, and we can’t fix it any more than we can pick up water once it’s spilled on the ground. What’s done is done. The consequence of death is inevitable.
Or is it? Keep reading:
“But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.”
God is God. What He wants will be. He wants relationship. He won’t force us into a relationship with Him because He wants us to come to Him because we want to. Yet He made a way to make relationship possible again.
I love that this verse was written long before Jesus came. He Is the way that God devised to save us from the consequences of our sin, to restore relationship. But the woman who spoke to David did not know about Him. She must have had great faith in God, in His mercy, and in His love and faithfulness. Maybe she was referring to the then-existing sacrificial system. Maybe she had noticed God’s work in the lives of people around her, His drawing them to Him. Whatever she was referring to, she knew our God wants relationship with His people and works to make it possible in spite of our sin.
This is why it’s so important for us to forgive those who have wronged us. Yes. We need to protect ourselves from further harm, and we have that right. Yet, as far as it is possible, we must strive to restore relationship. We must prayerfully devise appropriate ways to reach out with forgiveness and in hopes of fellowship even if all we can do is call or send a message once in a while to let the person know they’re still in our thoughts, we still care.
Granted, there are times when even that is not possible. The person, like Absalom, may be dangerous (physically, mentally, or emotionally) or may be uninterested in further contact. If that’s the case, our responsibility is to forgive, pray when God brings the person to mind, and move on. But when we can work toward mending a relationship, we offer the one who hurt us a great gift, and we receive an even greater gift from God in return as He uses our actions to make us more like Christ, His Son.
David refused to welcome Absalom home, but God has devised the perfect way to invite His banished children to enjoy a forever relationship with Him. Not all accept the invitation, but it’s there just the same. We thank Him when we follow His example and reach out with forgiveness.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” –Romans 12:18
Father, I’ll thank You forever for sending Jesus to make it possible for me and for all who want to to enjoy life with You! When others wrong me, help me to remember what You’ve done. Give me the desire to forgive and, if there is a way, reveal my part in restoring a healthy relationship. Amen.