Monday, November 22, 2004

Desperate Prayer

Absalom’s estrangement from David leads eventually to rebellion (2 Samuel 15, 16, 17). Gradually but deliberately he woos the people away from David and to himself. Finally, he makes his move. One day telling David he is going to Hebron to worship, he goes there to have himself pronounced king.

Perhaps sensing that the tide of power has turned, even some of David’s closest inner circle follow Absalom, among them Ahithophel, his wisest adviser.

Word gets back to the palace. David and his entourage flee Jerusalem to an accompaniment of weeping and expressions of loyalty by some, cursing by others.

David accepts it all - even the cursing. His response shows a demoralized man:

"My son who is of my own flesh is trying to take my life. How much more then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today." (2 Samuel 16:11,12)

But David is not completely forlorn. For early in his flight, he prays one possible defeat on Absalom: "Oh Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel (that man whose advice was regarded up there with talking to God Himself - 16:23) into foolishness."

Soon after that, David meets Hushai. Robe torn, dust on his head Hushai offers to go with David wherever. But David asks Hushai not to go with him. Instead, he requests Hushai return to Jerusalem, and there try to frustrate Ahithophel’s advice.

Meanwhile Absalom returns to the city, follows Ahithophel’s first bit of advice, and violates the ten concubines Dave had left in charge of the palace (publicly, in the sight of everyone. Note on the Quest NIV Study Bible:
"Taking over the king’s harem indicated to the people that Absalom was taking over the kingship. And it was a bold move, disgracing and challenging his father David.)

Then Absalom inquires of Ahithphel what to do next. Ahithophel advises immediate action to track down David.

Uncharacteristically, Absalom asks for a second opinion. Hushai (who has deceitfully declared his defection from David and allegiance to Absalom) suggests that they pursue only after they’ve gathered an army first. After all, David is a brave and wily warrior.

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 Ahithphel in order to bring disaster on Absalom. (17:14)

What I learn from this:

1. No matter how desperate the situation, God can turn it around. His creative grab bag is bottomless.

2. David imagined one way Absalom could be defeated. He said it out loud, to God in a prayer. And the scenario he imagined became the means by which the tables began to turn.

Do I have an idea of what I’d like to see God do? Perhaps God has already given me the seed of my problem’s solution as an imagination or thought. Do I have the courage and faith to frame my longings in words? To say them aloud? To pray them? It’s instructive to see that very soon after David expressed his prayer, he recognized in Hushai the beginning of its answer.

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