Is the Young Man Safe?
We who are older should sense more keenly the responsibility that we have toward those who are younger whether we are parents or simply interested in their welfare. There are probably no verses in the Bible that should strike a parent with attention more than Ephesians 6:4 and Proverbs 22:6. “And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Our lesson centers on one of the tragic questions of the Bible, asked by King David as he sat at a gate of a little place called Mahanaim which was but a short distance from Jerusalem. He was not there by choice but had been driven there as a result of a revolt against him led by his own son, Absalom. The question was, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (Second Samuel 18:29).
The Bible raises many questions and they are not all asked for the purpose of extracting information. The very first question of the Bible was asked by the devil. “Hath God said ye shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” (Genesis 3:1). This was not asked for information, but as a means of creating confusion and doubt in the mind of Eve. The devil knew that doubt was the first step toward disobedience.
Another question was asked by God of Cain, “Where is thy brother, Abel?” This was an embarrassing question to Cain, seeing how he had murdered his brother. God knew what had happened, but raised the question to impress upon Cain his responsibility and the enormity of his crime. Cain responded by asking a question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” He asked this in an effort to escape his guilt.
Job asked, “If a man die shall he live again?” Christ asked, “What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Neither of these questions sought information, but showed the inestimable value of the soul.
Some questions are asked in order to trick, deceive, entangle and ensnare. But David’s question was asked for information. He wanted to know. “Is the young man safe?” It is somewhat strange that this would be the question on his lips at that time, considering the manner and character of Absalom and the events of the moment.
Absalom was a very wicked person. He was murderer, having killed his half-brother, Amnon. Because Amnon had ravished Absalom’s sister, Absalom took the law into his own hands and punished Amnon by death. Prior to killing Amnon he had nourished hatred and vengeance in his heart for two years. As a result of his crime he had to flee from Jerusalem for three more years before he tried to use Joab, David’s captain, to make reconciliation for him.
When Joab refused to intercede on his behalf, Absalom resorted to blackmail and violence, threatening to destroy the crops of Joab unless he helped him.
When he returned to Jerusalem he remained there for two years before being permitted into the courts of King David. During this time he was busy building hatred toward his father and plotting to overthrow him. He would sit at the gates of the city and when citizens would enter the city to have some matter settled by the king Absalom would complain that they would not get justice and David was really unconcerned about them, and if only he could be in charge they would see better days. The Bible says he stole the hearts of the people away from David. This was no little accomplishment seeing how the people had adored David from the time he had slain Goliath.
Absalom finally asked leave to go from Jerusalem to Hebron on the premise he was going to keep a vow he had made. He was given a leave of absence. But it was not to keep a vow, but to muster his forces to revolt against David. He led the rebellion and did what no other enemy of David had been able to do, that is, drive David off his throne and from his capital city.
David leaving Jerusalem was a low point in David’s life. He was fleeing for his life, his heart was broken, his own son was rebelling against him, his forces were in such disarray that he knew not what to expect from them, and some of his trusted advisors had sided with Absalom. He knew that it was in part his punishment for his own sins. But however philosophical David viewed the situation, there can be no doubt but the character of Absalom was contemptible and reprehensible. He was a liar, a revolutionary, a murderer, a subverter and blackmailer.
But after this initial success by Absalom it soon became apparent that David’s army had not forsaken him. David began operations to recover his throne. The armies of David and Absalom met on the field of battle. It was a case of son against father and father against son. What a tragic situation! The son had disgraced his father and would have gladly sacrificed his father to secure his own unholy ambitions. Yet, before the battle begins David instructs his men and all his captains, “Deal gently with the young man for my sake.” Absalom deserved severe treatment, but for David’s sake he pleaded that Absalom not be harshly treated.
The Conflict and Absalom
A great conflict followed and some twenty thousand fell in the forest of Ephraim. Absalom’s army was routed, scattered and crushed by the more experienced, better trained, better led armies of David. David anxiously awaited word of the outcome as he sat at Mahanaim.
A messenger came toward him, then another. David asked the question, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” It is remarkable that this was what was most important to him. He did not ask the outcome of the battle, how many lives were lost, or whether the throne was recaptured. His concern was for his son, Absalom.
The answer he received told the story. “Would that all the enemies of David were as Absalom.” Absalom was dead, and his mangled body was buried beneath a pile of stones deep in the heart of the forest of Ephraim. No, Absalom was not safe. In reality, David’s inquiry about the safety of his son had come much too late. He should have asked that long before now. It was too late to do anything for Absalom.
David should have asked that question when he chose Absalom’s mother to be his wife. She was the daughter of Talmai the king of Geshur, a heathen land and of pagan people who cared nothing for the true and living God. David violated God’s law by taking her for his wife. That marriage was not motivated by love and respect for God or anyone else. It was purely for selfish and political interests, seeking alliances to enhance his own power. He took her, not asking what kind of mother she would be for his children, or what spiritual effect she would have on the lives of those around her. So many enter marriage without ever giving God and His will very much thought. No, Absalom was not safe even before he was born. He was not safe in the selection of his mother.
David should have asked, “Is the young man safe?” when he was looking with lustful eyes upon Bathsheba, when he was ruining the home of Uriah and conspiring to have Uriah killed in battle as if it were nothing. He should have been concerned when he was lying, trying to cover his sins by committing more sins. No child is safe when his father or mother is engaged in matters that are evil. How many parents today are putting stumblingblocks in the paths of their own children, pitfalls into which the young might fall, placing mines in their roadway to explode to their harm, and doing this by their own evil?
There is no evidence that David gave time, attention and interest in the training of Absalom, spiritually or otherwise. There was not the proper discipline when Absalom did evil. Spiritual training was obviously lacking, seeing the kind of person Absalom was. Parents harm their children immeasurably when they withhold proper discipline from them, when they are not attentive to the upbringing of their children, when they are too busy with other things, such as house, jobs, sports and fulfilling their own ambitions. David was a busy man. He was guilty, however, of neglect relative to Absalom. Absalom was not the first son, nor the last, to suffer because his parents were not what they ought to have been, nor reared as they should have been. The stones that covered the pit in the forest of Ephraim wherein did lay the body of Absalom was a monument to parental neglect of a child.
The question, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” is a heart-breaking question because there is so much self-rebuke in it. In Absalom’s death David saw more than the death of his son. While he could know that Absalom had reaped as he had sown, he also knew that much of the blame was his own. Young people have responsibility, but so do those who are older. It is a terrible thing for a parent to realize that the suffering and tragedy visited upon his own children are the results of his own sin, neglect and selfishness. David wailed, “0 my son, Absalom, my son, my son Absalom, would God I had died for thee, 0 Absalom, my son, my son.”
David was experiencing the deepest grief one can know. He had a son to die before and he had already suffered that. But he knew that he could go to him even though he could not bring him back (Second Samuel 12). But now he was not only reliving the agony of the death of one of his children, but he knew he had helped to make it that way. Nothing now could be done. His question of concern had come too late.
We must wonder how many parents today should be raising the question regarding their own children while there is time for them to do something about their duty toward that child. Is your child safe? Is he safe if you do not give him the advantages of a Christian example? Is he safe if you are neglecting his spiritual training to live God’s way? Is he safe if you are overly occupied with other matters that you neglect him? Is he safe with the friends and companions he has? Is he safe in the recreation he has, his education, where he goes and what he does?
If we do not discharge the duty of love now while we have time and opportunity, we may be the one who someday will ask, “Is my child safe?” but we will be asking too late.
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest of these, it might have been.”
It might have been different with Absalom if it had first been different with David. What we who are older do makes a difference. We cannot lead where we will not go. God help us to show our love toward our young by living before God according to His Word.
1. What was the occasion provoking this question?
2. Why was the question asked?
3. Why was David too late in asking this question?
4. What events in his life made him too late?
5. What loss is worse than the physical death of you child?
6. Discuss: “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these, it might have