2 Samuel 17
By this time in his life, David may well have felt that his best days were behind him. His son, Absalom, had seized the throne in rebellion against his father. While God had forgiven David for his sin with Bathsheba, nevertheless, the prophecy of Nathan that the sword would never leave his house was being fulfilled. (2 Samuel 12:10) Now, accompanied by a few loyal friends, the exiled king walked barefoot across the Kidron Valley, weeping. Despite his bitter circumstances, David was not shaking his fist at God and asking ‘Why is this happening to me?’ He knew it was the discipline of the Lord and he accepted it with dignity.
However, learning that his close friend and counselor, Ahithophel, had defected to Absalom was particularly painful. David fell to his knees and cried out to God. ‘So David prayed, O LORD, turn Ahitophel’s counsel into foolishness.’ 2 Sam. 15:31
This would prove to be a key moment in David’s life for if God indeed heard his prayer, everything would change. David had always been a man of prayer and now was no different. He was grateful for the loyal friends around him, but in his heart he knew the One he really needed was God. Only God could turn the situation around and assure him that he still had a future in God’s service.
We cannot always judge what is going on by the way we feel for feelings can be supremely unreliable. What matters is not what you feel but what God is doing. And many times in life we are not aware of what God is doing because our perception of Divine activity is limited. That is where faith comes in. At this dark hour of his life, David turned in faith to the only One who could make a difference.
God did answer His prayer in having his friend Hushai suddenly appear and agree to go to Jerusalem and counterbalance Ahithophel’s influence on Absalom. Though David was not privy to what was happening behind the palace walls, God was very much at work.
In Jerusalem, Absalom was receiving bad advice from Ahithophel:
Ahithophel said to Absalom: ‘I would choose 12,000 men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. I would attack him while he is tired and weak. I would strike in terror and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.’ This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel. 2 Samuel 17:1-4
Had Absalom followed this advice, David would surely have been killed. But unbeknown to Absalom, the LORD prompted him to get a second opinion:
Absalom said: ‘Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so that we can hear what he has to say.’ vs. 5
That one sentence altered the course of history. Absalom himself sought Hushai’s advice. Amazing. Our God can do anything! He can even cause enemies to impulsively act in such a way that everything changes in an instant. Hushai’s response to Absalom’s inquiry was this: Hushai replied to Absalom, ‘The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time…’ vs. 7
Notice how diplomatic Hushai was for he implied that Ahithophel did give good advice at times but that on this occasion Absalom should take ‘other things’ into account. Hushai then shook Absalom’s self-confidence with these words:
‘You know your father and his men; they are fighters and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘there has been a slaughter among the troops that follow Absalom.’ Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave.’ vs. 8-10
Hushai continued: So I advise you: Let all Israel from Dan to Beersheva – as numerous as the sand on the seashore – be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. Then we will attack him wherever he may be found and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. vs. 11-12
Absalom was a very proud man, and particularly proud of his long hair. (2 Sam. 14:25-26) As Hushai spoke, Absalom could picture himself leading his triumphant troops and being admired and cheered by all the people. Little did he realize that through Hushai, God persuaded him to adopt a plan that would ensure his defeat. Pride goes before a fall, wrote Absalom’s half brother, Solomon. Was Solomon thinking of this occasion when he penned those words?
In any event, Absalom’s only concern was his own power and prestige. Neither he nor his followers asked God for guidance as his father always did. And they did not take into account that his father was a man of prayer, a man after God’s own heart.
Hushai sent two messengers to David to inform him of Absalom’s plan. They told David: ‘Set out and cross the river at once; Ahithophel has advised such and such against you.’ vs. 21 Though Absalom had appeared to reject Ahithophel’s advice, Hushai was taking no chances that Absalom might change his mind and still send 12,000 men after David. Hushai’s thought was that regardless of what happened, David could defend himself if he was forewarned.
For David it was the most encouraging news he’d heard. God was still with him; God had answered his prayer and that gave him strength to cope with the situation. He knew that God was still working on his behalf.
Out of the blue, three men appeared bring provisions for David and his men for they said, ‘The people have become hungry and tired and thirsty in the desert.’ vs. 27-29 These new friends encouraged David, gave him practical help and more importantly, David saw God at work. Nothing could have been more strengthening than that.
He who was a victim of a terrible injustice when his son seized the throne now arose, made a better man because he knew how to receive the discipline of the LORD with humility and graciousness.
David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. David sent the troops out – a third under the command of Joab; a third under Joab’s brother Abishai, son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, ‘I myself will surely march out with you.’ 2 Samuel 18:1-2
David had changed.
In times of hardship, trials and difficulties, David’s behavior is our example. If we will learn to humble ourselves, particularly when it is hardest to do so – when we have been unjustly treated, humiliated or betrayed – God will fight on our behalf. He works in ways that we do not always see until later but we can be assured that He hears every prayer, every cry, and that in the worst of situations, He will undertake for us as He did for David, if only we are willing to learn and embrace the greatest of virtues, humility. Let God fight your battles for you; He is truly the only One who can.