While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone. The watchman called out to the king and reported it. The king said, “If he is alone, he must have good news.” And the runner came closer and closer. Then the watchman saw another runner, and he called down to the gatekeeper, “Look, another man running alone!” The king said, “He must be bringing good news, too.” The watchman said, “It seems to me that the first one runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.” “He’s a good man,” the king said. “He comes with good news.” Then Ahimaaz called out to the king, “All is well!” He bowed down before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise be to the Lord your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.” The king asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.”
The king said, “Stand aside and wait here.” So he stepped aside and stood there. Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.” The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.” The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
This is written on the day they are commemorating the centenary of the Battle of Amiens, August 8th 1918. They do so in that great cathedral, full of memorials and memories, that was miraculously spared the ravages of 2 wars and left unbroken – unlike David’s heart ,as he grieved for his wayward son Absalom.
You read this in November, always a time for Remembrance – all the Saints and all the Fallen. I remember my great uncle Albert, just a little lad, who enlisted illegally at 15 in 1914 and was dead on the Somme at 17. Like all the others, he has his memorial stone and the words of remembrance: “His mother’s pride, he fought and died, he is now at rest”.
Young Absalom also had a memorial stone, a pillar which he set for himself because he: said “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance”. But his father did not forget, and his name is kept in remembrance to this day because of his father’s heart-rending grief. “My Son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom my son.”
This is a time for us to remember that the Father grieves still for us. He keeps our names in remembrance because of the Son who died for us. Reflect; and do this, in remembrance of Him. Lest we forget.
May the power of your love, Lord Christ, Fiery and sweet as honey, So absorb our hearts as to withdraw them from all that is under heaven. Grant that we may be ready to die for love of your love, As you died for love of our love. Amen
St Francis of Assisi
The Rev’d Peter Moth is a retired minister in the Northern Synod and a member of St Andrew’s URC Kenton, Newcastle upon Tyne.