The last chapter ended with Absalom sleeping with David’s concubines in public view. Having solidified his position with the people of the city Ahithophel has a second recommendation. I had always thought of Ahithophel as a wise old man, but in this story, he shows himself to be a warrior. He recommends that Absalom allow him to assemble an attack force that will pursue and kill David. Absalom can remain in Jerusalem and Ahithophel will do the work of defeating David. As a new leader, Absalom thinks this a great approach, but then something changes.
For some reason Absalom chooses to seek a second opinion, which we would generally regard as a wise thing to do. Hushai, the other of David’s advisors, gets his chance and makes a very different recommendation. Rather than recommending an attack Hushai recommends waiting and preparing a massive force before leaving the city to attack David. Ahithophel said attack and Hushai says wait. Ahithophel volunteers to lead the attack, while Hushai recommends that Absalom personally lead the charge. Other than the objective, which is to kill David, the two recommendations have little in common.
There is no question from the text that Ahithophel provided the better advice. David was unprepared for an attack and would have been defeated. Absalom remaining in Jerusalem would have saved Absalom’s life. Hushai’s advice gave David an opportunity to regroup and prepare. It also took Absalom into battle where he could be killed and eliminated as a threat to the kingdom. God has been at work and at this point the text reveals what He has been doing.
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.2 Samuel 17:14 NIV
Hushai sends messengers to tell David the plan. Ahithophel was jockeying for a very high position in Absalom’s kingdom, but his plan has been frustrated by God working through Hushai. Ahithophel sees defeat in the future and chooses to commit suicide rather than throwing himself on David’s mercy when David returns victorious. The chapter ends with David receiving provision to prepare he and his party for the battle to come.
What about us?
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.Proverbs 15:22 NIV
This remains sound advice, especially for those seeking God’s direction. Multiple perspectives help us sort through the confusion that often arises when we face a difficult choice. A faithful and loving community of believers will be especially helpful in situations where we struggle to sort out the voices in our head.
All too often we are not seeking God’s direction. Instead, we are searching for support for our own plans. If this is our desire, then the only advisors we will hear are the ones who tell us what we want to hear. The first indication that this is happening is that we choose not to look for advice and direction from God’s Word.
When looking for advisors it is essential to search out people who demonstrate a godly character and who have nothing to gain from the result of your decision. I remember going to the store in China and finding that there was a person in each aisle to help you make choices. These were not good advisors. There primary function was not to help the shopper find the best deal, but to steer the shopper to the product which would provide the greatest profit for the store.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.(James 1:5-6 NIV)
God’s desire is to provide us with wisdom. He may provide it through His Spirit, through His Word, or through godly people. When we trust God and seek His wisdom He promises to provide.