Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
The scene is powerful, evocative, because it captures the paradox of our own experience. David, a “man after God’s own heart” seems, ironically, to be trapped in an endless cycle of struggle, including within his own family. After the episode with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah, Nathan delivers God’s judgment: “the sword shall never depart from your house” (2 Samuel 12:10). And here is perhaps the most heartbreaking example: Absalom, David’s son, who is trying to gain the kingdom from his father is struck down by David’s soldiers. The image is comical, if not for the tragedy of it. Absalom, riding on his mule, gets his head stuck between some branches, and is left “hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on” (2 Samuel 18:33).
Absalom is not the only one. David wants it all—the might of a political dynasty, and his son spared. Indeed his grief at the loss of his son is so profound that he wishes he could trade places. But in the lead-up he believes he can be both a faithful father and a warrior-king.
Perhaps David is a person after God’s own heart because his experience is so typical of the human experience with which God lovingly engages. He wants his family restored, but years of stubbornness, brutality, and vanity provides him with only an empty victory. Don't we all hang between heaven and earth, wrestling constantly with the gravity of our decisions and our actions as we consider who we hope to be in the world?
Jesus, the manna of heaven for the sake of the world, invites us not to choose between heaven or earth, but to live for an earth as it is in heaven.
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