19Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Joab, let me run and tell King David that the Lord has rescued him from his enemies.”
20Joab answered, “You're not the one to tell the king that his son is dead. You can take him a message some other time, but not today.”
21Someone from Ethiopia was standing there, and Joab told him, “Go and tell the king what you have seen.” The man knelt down in front of Joab, then got up and started running.
22Ahimaaz spoke to Joab again, “No matter what happens, I still want to go. And besides, the Ethiopian has already left.”
Joab said, “Why should you go? You won't get a reward for the news you have!”
23“I'll run no matter what!” Ahimaaz insisted.
“All right then, run!” Joab said.
Ahimaaz took the road through the Jordan Valley and outran the Ethiopian.
24Meanwhile, David was sitting between the inner and outer gates in the city wall. One of his soldiers was watching from the roof of the gate-tower. He saw a man running toward the town 25and shouted down to tell David.
David answered, “If he's alone, he must have some news.”
The runner was getting closer, 26when the soldier saw someone else running. He shouted down to the gate, “Look! There's another runner!”
David said, “He must have some news too.”
27The soldier on the roof shouted, “The first one runs just like Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.”
This time David said, “He's a good man. He must have some good news.”
28Ahimaaz called out, “We won! We won!” Then he bowed low to David and said, “Your Majesty, praise the Lord your God! He has given you victory over your enemies.”
29“Is my son Absalom all right?” David asked.
Ahimaaz said, “When Joab sent your personal servant and me, I saw a noisy crowd. But I don't know what it was all about.”
30David told him, “Stand over there and wait.”
Ahimaaz went over and stood there. 31The Ethiopian came and said, “Your Majesty, today I have good news! The Lord has rescued you from all your enemies!”
32“Is my son Absalom all right?” David asked.
The Ethiopian replied, “I wish that all Your Majesty's enemies and everyone who tries to harm you would end up like him!”
David Cries for Absalom
33David started trembling. Then he went up to the room above the city gate to cry. As he went, he kept saying, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! I wish I could have died instead of you! Absalom, my son, my son!”
It was good news for Israel’s army to hear that the leader of the insurrection had been captured and killed. But King David was deeply conflicted because the rebel was one of his sons. So while he valued the stability of the kingdom and his throne, it was scarcely worth the price. What he really wanted was to be reconciled with his son.
David found out what happened through the tales of two messengers. One was a lowly mercenary; a foreigner who was dispatched to deliver news that the officers knew would be unwelcome to the king. He accepted his orders and headed towards the city where David was impatiently waiting for word from the frontlines.
The second was a rising young star in David’s army, a warrior whose eagerness to share news of military triumph trumped the caution he could have exercised. He might have known that it’s not safe to bring dreaded news to a person of great power and authority.
He failed to realize that David was a father waiting for news of his son, not a king waiting for news of his enemy.
And so the ambitious soldier ran with the vigor of youth, arriving first at the city gate to gasp out good news of a great victory. And then he lost his nerve and faltered in his full duty. He lied, and pretended not to know that the king’s son was dead.
The seasoned messenger was more forthright and eminently diplomatic. In a couple of well-crafted sentences he communicated both loyalty and truth. “May all who rise up to do harm to you, be as that young man” (v 32).
Truth-telling is a thorny art, difficult but necessary. Only the most secure can tolerate stark truth, yet any enduring relationship must be grounded in reality. Tread carefully.
O God, help me to be both forthright and loving. Fill me with a generous and discerning spirit so that I can graciously deliver news – good or bad – with truth intact and relationship preserved. Make me a messenger of your peace, and may I experience the freedom of living in your truth.