Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2 Samuel 16:15-17:14

15 Meanwhile, Absalom and all the men of Israel came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him. 16 Then Hushai the Arkite, David’s confidant, went to Absalom and said to him, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”
17 Absalom said to Hushai, “So this is the love you show your friend? If he’s your friend, why didn’t you go with him?”
18 Hushai said to Absalom, “No, the one chosen by the LORD, by these people, and by all the men of Israel—his I will be, and I will remain with him. 19 Furthermore, whom should I serve? Should I not serve the son? Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.”
20 Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your advice. What should we do?”
21 Ahithophel answered, “Sleep with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious to your father, and the hands of everyone with you will be more resolute.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.
23 Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice.

17:1 Ahithophel said to Absalom, “I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. 2 I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king 3 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.” 4 This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.
5 But Absalom said, “Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well.” 6 When Hushai came to him, Absalom said, “Ahithophel has given this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, give us your opinion.”
7 Hushai replied to Absalom, “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. 8 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. 9 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 who follow Absalom.’ 10 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.
11 “So I advise you: Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba—as numerous as the sand on the seashore—be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. 12 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. 13 If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it down to the valley until not so much as a pebble is left.”
14 Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better than that of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.

Points of Interest
  • ‘No, the one chosen by the LORD’--Absalom knows of Hushai’s close connection with David. One way or another, it makes him suspicious--and, as we know from Sunday’s passage, rightfully so--of Hushai’s loyalty. Either Hushai is still working for David, or he’s a turncoat, in which case, what’s to stop him from someday switching sides again? Hushai cleverly answers that nothing has changed; he serves the king, not David, and right now Absalom is the one sitting on the throne.
  • ‘all Israel will hear that you have made yourself obnoxious‘--nobody wants to pick sides if they think there’s still a good chance that Absalom and David will patch things up. Sleeping with his father’s concubines would be Absalom’s crossing of the Rubicon; there’s no going back from there. People would then know it’s time to back either David or Absalom.
  • ‘he slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel’--this fulfills Nathan’s prediction that David would someday understand just what he had done to Uriah (March 6th, 2 Samuel 12:1-14). It also turns Absalom into the very thing he despises. This whole thing starts because Amnon rapes his sister; and now Absalom is raping his father’s wives.
  • ‘I would attack him while he is weary and weak’--momentum and the element of surprise are in Absalom’s favor. If he were to make a quick thrust, he could succeed. As time goes by, the fragility of Absalom’s position will start to show, and David will have the chance to gather his strength.
  • ‘Summon also Hushai the Arkite’--Absalom’s entire fate hangs on this decision; so he wants to hear as much advice as possible before making a final decision.
  • ‘as fierce as a wild bear’ --Hushai evaluates the situation differently. To him, Absalom’s main challenge is David’s fearsome reputation as a general and a warrior in his own right. If Absalom goes for the quick knockout punch and fails, it will only serve to enhance David’s reputation as someone who cannot be defeated; then everyone will defect back to David. Hushai is probably not wrong in this regard. And yet it doesn’t change the fundamental soundness of Ahithophel’s advice. The truth is that Absalom only has one shot, and his chances of success are small regardless. However, his odds are somewhat better if he makes the quick punch, as Ahithophel suggests.
  • ‘he will not spend the night with the troops’--Hushai reminds Absalom that David spent years hiding in the wilderness. If they go for the quick strike, they can’t even be guaranteed to find him; they’ll have shot their wad for no reason.
  • ‘from Dan to Beersheba’--Hushai’s conclusion is that Absalom should aim for overwhelming force instead of going for the quick strike. It sounds like a good idea, except for the tiny detail that Absalom has very little chance of being able to muster overwhelming force.
  • ‘The advice of Hushai the Arkite is better’--Hushai’s constant harping on just how fearsome David is--‘Did I ever tell you about the time he felled a giant with just a pebble, and then cut off the giant’s head? I’ve never seen anything like it’--saps Absalom’s enthusiasm for a fight. Suddenly, waiting sounds good. Unfortunately, it’s too late for second thoughts; he’s already crossed the Rubicon. He follows enough of Ahithophel’s advice to get himself into trouble, but not enough to actually see it through.
Taking it Home
  • For you: Today’s psalm is Psalm 61.
Psalm 61
1 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
5 For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
6 Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
7 May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
8 Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.
  • For your six: Hushai was able to strategically use his position and skills. He recognized that he had influence and saw how he could leverage it for good. Ask God to use the gifts, talents and skills of your six in ways that matter--maybe not as sneakily or deceptively as Hushai did, but with just as much impact. Ask God to make your six aware of the unique influence they have and to give them a sense of their purpose in the world.
  • For our church: Ask God to give our church the wisdom to recognize good advice when we hear it. Pray that God would protect us from ruinous advice like Absalom received in today’s passage, instead putting us in the hands of trustworthy people who will help strengthen our church.
  • For families: We all find ourselves in situations where we’d appreciate some good advice. Have you or a family member been in any situations like that recently? What was going on? Who did you turn to for advice? Why did you choose them? Think and talk about the qualities of people who give good advice. Pray that God would continue to give them wisdom and discernment when giving advice, and that God would develop these qualities in you and your family members.