God Ordained (II Samuel 16:15-17:14)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 16:15–17:14
Crying for a King
II Samuel 16:15-17:14
(One Lord: No One Like You)
March 2nd, 2014
I. Truly Understanding the Old Testament
Listen to these verses from the final chapter of the Gospel of Luke:
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures... (Luke 24:44-45)
What are we doing here this morning? We are here to understand the Scriptures. But what does that mean? It must mean more than mere comprehension. Why? Because as we from these verses, this kind of understanding requires illumination from the Savior himself. Jesus has to take the 'blinders' off, so that we can see Him and God's purposes through Him.
We need that very thing this morning as we come to the Old Testament, or as Jesus referred to these books, to “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms”.
Turn with me to II Samuel 16, as return to our ongoing study in the books of Samuel.
II. The Passage: “The Counsel that Ahithophel Gave ” (15:1-37)
Let me catch you up to speed since we haven't been in II Samuel for over a month. You may remember that David, by the time we come to chapter 16, David the king of Israel is on the run. He's fled Jerusalem and, as you can see from verse 14, has arrived at the Jordan River with hundreds of his loyal servants and soldiers. Why is David running? Because his son Absalom has staged a revolt in order to seize control of the nation and make himself the new king, and he has thousands upon thousands of men supporting him.
Now before we pick up the story in verse 15, let me remind you of something that happened back in chapter 15. As David left Jerusalem, the author tells us about five meetings that took place on His way out of the area. One of those meetings was with a man name Hushai the Archite. Hushai was a good friend and trusted adviser to David's, and wanted to join him in what they hoped was a temporary exile.
Look with me back at II Samuel 15, verse 31. Listen to how the author sets up and describes David's meeting with Hushai....15:31-37....
And it was told David, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”  While David was coming to the summit, where God was worshiped, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat torn and dirt on his head.  David said to him, “If you go on with me, you will be a burden to me.  But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father's servant in time past, so now I will be your servant,’ then you will defeat for me the counsel of Ahithophel.  Are not Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? So whatever you hear from the king's house, tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.  Behold, their two sons are with them there, Ahimaaz, Zadok's son, and Jonathan, Abiathar's son, and by them you shall send to me everything you hear.”  So Hushai, David's friend, came into the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem. (II Samuel 15:31-37)
Did you see the relationship there between the fact that a man Ahithophel was one of the conspirators, and David's request for Hushai to go back to the city and be his 'inside man'? Keep that connection in mind as we look together at 16:15.
A. Ahithophel's Counsel Revered (16:15-23)
We pick up right where 15:37 left off. Look at verse 15 of II Samuel 16...
Now Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him.  And when Hushai the Archite, David's friend, came to Absalom, Hushai said to Absalom, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”  And Absalom said to Hushai, “Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?”  And Hushai said to Absalom, “No, for whom the LORD and this people and all the men of Israel have chosen, his I will be, and with him I will remain.  And again, whom should I serve? Should it not be his son? As I have served your father, so I will serve you.”  Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give your counsel. What shall we do?”  Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father's concubines, whom he has left to keep the house, and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened.”  So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof. And Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel.  Now in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom.
So this morning I want us to look at two consecutive and connected passages, and think about how they are connected to one another. The first passage is the one we just looked at. We see right away that Absalom is surprised to find Hushai in the city, and may be a little suspicious about his motives. But Hushai wins the Oscar for best supporting actor by convincing Absalom that he is on his side.
But as we continue to read, it becomes abundantly that Ahithophel is the real focus. He is clearly considered the number one consultant in all Israel. Like the old E.F. Hutton commercials, when Ahithophel talked, people listened. Of course, David knew this. That's why he asked God to overturn Ahithophel's counsel, and that's why he wanted Hushai to go back.
And living up to his reputation, Ahithophel's first suggestion to the eager, 'wannabe' king is to make a bold and brazen statement affirming that Absalom has indeed seized all royal power. By making a public and depraved spectacle of His domination of the king's harem, Absalom was declaring publicly that He truly rejected his father and was establishing his own dominion.
B. Ahithophel's Counsel Rejected (17:1-14)
But let's go forward to chapter 17 and look at the second of our two passages for this morning. Look with me at verses 1-14....
Moreover, Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue David tonight.  I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged and throw him into a panic, and all the people who are with him will flee. I will strike down only the king,  and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man, and all the people will be at peace.”  And the advice seemed right in the eyes of Absalom and all the elders of Israel.  Then Absalom said, “Call Hushai the Archite also, and let us hear what he has to say.”  And when Hushai came to Absalom, Absalom said to him, “Thus has Ahithophel spoken; shall we do as he says? If not, you speak.”  Then Hushai said to Absalom, “This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good.”  Hushai said, “You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people.  Behold, even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits or in some other place. And as soon as some of the people fall at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’  Then even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and that those who are with him are valiant men.  But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as the sand by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person.  So we shall come upon him in some place where he is to be found, and we shall light upon him as the dew falls on the ground, and of him and all the men with him not one will be left.  If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we shall drag it into the valley, until not even a pebble is to be found there.”  And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom.
So as we see from this passage, Ahithophel is not only a cold, cruel, and calculating politician; he is also a clever military tactician. Ahithophel was rightly feared by his opponents. But for some reason, Absalom wants to weigh his options in regard to finishing off his father. And so, after hearing from Ahithophel, Absalom calls for Hushai, so he and his team can hear a different strategy.
Now you may have noticed that Hushai's counsel to Absalom is about three times as long as they counsel given by Ahithophel. And while Ahithophel's plan was built around the ideas of rapid deployment, seizing the opportunity, and making a surgical strike against the beleaguered David, Hushai's plan is meant to encourage caution and careful preparation. Why caution? Because David is an experienced man of war. He will be hard to find. His men are valiant and fierce. And in light of these things, Hushai argues, all of them need to be wiped out with overwhelming force.
Notice also that Ahithophel's plan is built around Ahithophel, while Hushai makes Absalom the hero, and thus plays to the young man's seriously enlarged ego. And so, even though Ahithophel's plan is the superior plan, the one most likely to succeed, Absalom and his advisers decide to go with Hushai's counsel.
III. The Connecting Thread
Now as you think about these two passages (16:15-23 and 17:1-14), ask yourself, “How are they connected?” If you said that Ahithophel's advice is the connecting thread, you would be right. Both passages are built around the counsel given by Ahithophel. In the first, his counsel is revered. But in the second, his counsel is rejected, even though, as we read in 16:23...in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom.
It doesn't say that Ahithophel spoke the word of God. It simply says that his advice was esteemed as if it were the word of a god.
But that verse, and that comparison, points us to even more important 'connecting thread'. There is, in fact, a 'connecting rope' between these two passages. Keep in mind what Absalom did with the royal harem as you listen to these words from II Samuel 12:
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’  Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.  For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” (II Samuel 12:10-12)
There's one end of this 'connecting rope'. The other end is the final verse of the second passage. Look again at 17:14. Why did Absalom favor Hushai's counsel, even though it was the inferior plan, even though Ahithophel was universally esteemed. Why? For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom.
Do you see the connection? Both passages describe how God accomplished his counsel through the counsel of men. Just as God ordained judgment against David because of his heinous sins against Bathsheba and Uriah, so also God ordained judgment against Absalom for the murder of his brother, for his audacity to challenge Yahweh's anointed king, and for his immorality with David's wives, a clear violation of Leviticus 20:11.
But wait a minute. Did Absalom violate the royal harem because of Ahithophel's counsel and his own desire for power, or because God ordained it? Yes! Wait a minute. Did Absalom reject Ahithophel's plan in favor of Hushai's because the plan of the latter was safer and more Absalom-centered, or because God ordained it? Well...yes!
You see, this is not new. The whole Bible is filled with this same tension; this same question:
Did Esau sell his birthright to the younger Jacob because the older brother was hungry and ungrateful, or because God ordained it? Yes!
Did Joseph end up a slave in Egypt because of his brothers jealousy and cruelty, or because God ordained it? Yes!
Did Pharaoh harden his heart because he was stubborn, cruel, and proud, or because God hardened his heart...because God ordained it? Yes!
Did the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah go into exile because of the political aspirations and military prowess of Assyria and Babylon, or because God ordained it in light of His people's rampant wickedness? Yes!
Did Joseph go to Bethlehem with a very pregnant Mary because Caesar wanted to levy taxes and boast in the size of his empire or because God ordained it? Yes!
And those are just some of the instances in which the Bible tells us very clearly that God had a plan all along. But He carried out that plan through the very real choices, even the sinful choices of human beings; human beings who are 100% responsible for those choices. And yet, God gets 100% of the glory as His purposes are worked out. I can't explain that to you, but that's what the Bible teaches. The book of Proverbs speaks to this fact:
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
The God we meet in the pages of Scriptures is certainly the God who, according to Paul, works all things according to the counsel of his will... (Ephesians 1:11)
IV. Ordained for Our Deliverance
But I want you to see something else here. I want you to see there is both judgment AND deliverance in our two passages this morning. While God's judgment against Absalom is going to be carried out through the plan of Hushai, at the same time, David will be delivered. He will be delivered because Ahithophel's plan was not adopted, and he will be delivered because Absalom will eventually be removed from the story.
The deliverance of God's anointed king drives us to ask two more questions:
Was Jesus handed over because Judas was disillusioned, disloyal, and greedy, or because God ordained it? Yes!
Was Jesus crucified because the Jewish leaders were bitter and envious, and because Pilate chose 'keeping the peace' over sparing an innocent man, or because God ordained it? Yes!
Peter declared this very thing when he spoke before thousands of people on the Day of Pentecost. He said... "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22, 23)
You see, if you belong to God through faith in Jesus, then you are part of the very plan that God ordained; the very plan that God is carrying out. Just as David was judged and then delivered according to God's counsel, so too was Jesus judged FOR US on the cross, and then delivered FOR US in His resurrection according to the plan of God. And if the death of Jesus by which you live was no accident, then the life you have in Christ is certainly no accident. Is this your God? If He isn’t, He can be…He wants to be this morning!
Think about it. If God could use the egos of men, and all of their power plays, to accomplish David's deliverance, He has and can rescue you, even from those situations in which sin seems most invincible; those situations in which all hope seems lost; those situations in which the deck seems stacked against you. Why? Because in Jesus, God has ordained your eternal good.
Paul expresses this same point in some of the most encouraging words in all Scripture:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined [that is, determined their destiny beforehand…to what end?...] to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:28-31)
How big is your God? If He’s a god who is attempting to do his best in the face of human foolishness, a god who is trying to anticipate what we will do, a god who is trying to work out His plan in spite of our tendency to ruin everything, then he is far too small. That is not the God of the Bible. And when we don’t trust that God is at work for our eternal good in all things, then we begin to trust in ourselves and our solutions to being hurt. Listen to how Paul speaks to this a few chapters later in Romans:
Never be wise in your own sight.  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:16c-21)
Because of the cross of Christ, we can trust that God is for us. We don’t need to seek revenge if we’ve been sought and redeemed. Think about the challenges you face right now and ask yourself, not “How can I fix this?” or even, “How can God fix this?”, but “What might God be doing in all this?” and “Do I trust Him to do it?” How big is your God? Are these the words of the God you serve?…
“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors,  remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,
 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'... " (Is. 46:8-10)