2 Samuel 18:1–5 (ESV) – 1 Then David mustered the men who were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 And David sent out the army, one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the men, “I myself will also go out with you.” 3 But the men said, “You shall not go out. For if we flee, they will not care about us. If half of us die, they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us. Therefore it is better that you send us help from the city.” 4 The king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood at the side of the gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands. 5 And the king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders about Absalom.
David readied his men for battle. They were set to fight against Absalom and his men who were trying to gain the throne in Israel. Absalom, David’s son, had done many evil things towards his father leading up to this. One might expect David to be happy to see him eliminated, but that is not what we find. David’s words to his leaders were “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” We are told that all of the people heard these words from David.
We might want to criticize David’s instructions here. Why would he want to be gentle on Absalom? David should give him what he deserves! Instead we read of a father who shows love and concern for a wayward son and desires reconciliation. It should remind us that this is how our Heavenly Father deals with us. We have rebelled against him in our sin, but he desires reconciliation and deals patiently with us. David’s words concerning Absalom remind me of Psalm 103:13:
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
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