Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, "Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only one man's life that you seek. Then you will be at peace with all the people." (2 Samuel 17:1-3 NLT)
David's son, Absalom, is now in charge. He knows that his reign is only going to last if David is killed. As long as his father is alive, Absalom's rule is in danger. So, Absalom starts listening to potential plans from his advisers.
But then Absalom said, "Bring in Hushai the Arkite. Let's see what he thinks about this."...
"I recommend that you mobilize the entire army of Israel, bringing them from as far away as Dan in the north and Beersheba in the south. That way you will have an army as numerous as the sand on the seashore. And I advise that you personally lead the troops. When we find David, we'll fall on him like dew that falls on the ground. Then neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. And if David were to escape into some town, you will have all Israel there at your command. Then we can take ropes and drag the walls of the town into the nearest valley until every stone is torn down." (2 Samuel 17:5,11-13 NLT)
Absalom's advisers both recommend killing David. One of them recommended the slaughter of all David's army, too. Now, God was working in this second set of advice so that Absalom would fail, but Absalom didn't know that. He was making a decision based on what he thought best. He chose to kill his father and all his father's army.
Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, "Hushai's advice is better than Ahithophel's... (2 Samuel 17:14 NLT)
He pulled together a great army of Israel and went after David. He wanted to slaughter them all. David, of course, prepared to fight back. Before sending his army out to battle, though, he gave this command:
"For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom." And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders. (2 Samuel 18:5b NLT)
I see in David a glimpse of the mind of God. Twenty thousand warriors would lose their lives in battle that day, but David still loved his son. Sometimes I think we miss the point when we read all the stories, Old Testament and New, where punishment and death are all over the place. You might start to get the picture that God is just big, mean, and out to destroy us for every little mistake we make. You would be seeing the picture quite distorted, though. Nothing could be further from the truth.
God doesn't want to hurt you. He wants to stop evil. To the extent that you are doing evil, He wants you to knock it off and start doing good.
He doesn't want to punish your spouse for the wrong done to you. He wants you both to stop doing wrong, love one another, and have a good marriage.
He doesn't want to punish you for your rebellion against your parents. He wants you to get along with them, love them, and learn from them how to walk with Him.
He doesn't want to punish your parents for the way they treated you. He wants them to stop hurting you, repent of their own sin, and start being good, loving parents.
God puts laws, penalties, and even wiped out whole nations of people; but that's not what He wants to do. What He wants is for those people to stop doing evil and start living the life God intended for them to enjoy. That's what God wants.
You want to walk together with God? It's a great life...when you do what God wants.