The history of David and Absalom is a study in fathers provoking their children to wrath, and the outworking of rebellion against parents in a child’s life. Rebellion always begins with the sin of the father, not the child:
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Eph 6:4
David provoked Absalom to wrath, first, by his inaction in doing justice for Tamar and dealing with Amnon. In order to provide justice for Tamar, Absalom felt he had to deal with Amnon. You know, we parents love our children, and it is hard, sometimes, to allow them to experience the consequences of their sin. But fathers are charged, not just with the nurture of the LORD, but also the admonition of the LORD in raising their children. When fathers fail to provide either nurture or admonition, or nurture and admonition is not balanced, they provoke their children to wrath.
David furthermore provoked Absalom to wrath, in refusing to see him when he recalled him to Jerusalem. When he did finally receive him, he treated him as a king receiving a subject, i.e., impersonally; rather than as a father receiving his son. Compare the reception Absalom receives from David in 2 Sam 14:24-33 to the reception the prodigal son receives from his father in Luk 15:20-24.
So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 2 Sam 15:6
The first heart that was stolen was Absalom’s. David lost his son’s heart. Absalom lost his love and his loyalty for his father, long before he incited the men of Israel against him. God has designed children so that their hearts are knit to their parents’ hearts, so that parents can bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the LORD with success. Obedience flows out of love (Joh 14:15). When there is love lost between a parent and a child, the parent initiates that loss. Children never initiate that loss, because it is so devastatingly painful for a child to lose the love of their parent.
Notice how Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel: he made time for them (2 Sam 15:2). He listened to their grievances and problems without recrimination (2 Sam 15:3). He touched them and kissed them (2 Sam 15:5). David could have used the same biblical principle to restore Absalom’s heart to himself. He could have made time for Absalom, listened to him, and treated him with affection.
It is a biblical principle, that human beings obey whom they love. This is why teenagers do every hare brained thing their friends do. Teenagers believe their friends love them more than their parents do. This lie is fostered by the enemy. How does a parent combat that lie? Love your child. Make time for them, listen to them respectfully without recrimination, and hug them and treat them affectionately.
Americans spend a lot more time in physical contact with infants and toddlers than we do with older children. Children need to know they’re loved, and humans equate physical contact with love. Hugging, holding, snuggled up together; that sends a powerful message of “I love you” to a child. We do less of it as they get older, but I think they need it just as much.
So what I am saying is, if there is rebellion in our children, we parents must go before the LORD in fasting and prayer and humility, seeking the revelation ofour sin, especially fathers. We must repent, to the LORD first, and then to our children. And then we need to use Absalom’s approach to steal back the hearts of our children that we have lost (and that might take time and perseverance).
Now the father’s sin is often the open door that allows the seed of rebellion to be planted. But if the father has repented, and changed, and the rebellion remains, then the rebellion must be confronted in the biblical manner, and any demonic influences dealt with.