Now Absalom and all the Israelites came to Jerusalem; Ahithophel was with him. When Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom, Hushai said to Absalom, ‘Long live the king! Long live the king!’ Absalom said to Hushai, ‘Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?’ Hushai said to Absalom, ‘No; but the one whom the Lord and this people and all the Israelites have chosen, his I will be, and with him I will remain. Moreover, whom should I serve? Should it not be his son? Just as I have served your father, so I will serve you.’ Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, ‘Give us your counsel; what shall we do?’ Ahithophel said to Absalom, ‘Go in to your father’s concubines, the ones he has left to look after the house; and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself odious to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened.’ So they pitched a tent for Absalom upon 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 oracle of God; so all the counsel of Ahithophel was esteemed, both by David and by Absalom. Moreover, Ahithophel said to Absalom, ‘Let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will set out 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.’ The advice pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel.
There is such a thing as bad advice, even when we think that the advice giver is someone we can trust implicitly. I read about a young boy recently, whose father (whom he trusted) told him a broken escalator was voice activated. The boy spent ten minutes shouting go up before his dad finally admitted the truth!
Absalom sought Ahithophel’s advice. He was hugely respected, and his advice was treated as though God himself had spoken it. Ahithophel’s advice though, may not have been the right advice on this occasion. He was a strong supporter of Absalom and he feared that there might be some sort of late reconciliation between father and son which would expose those who had thrown their weight behind Absalom to great danger. By committing this act, it could be seen by his followers that Absalom was committed to the revolt wholeheartedly and this insecurity would be no more.
Ahithophel regards this act as an irrevocable step and this is why he wants Absalom to take it. It will make his name muck in the eyes of his father. To have your own son defile your concubines in such a public arena would have been an outright humiliation and would have also been seen as a direct challenge to the throne. Ahithophel calculated this would destroy any affection which David still had for his son and would make it necessary for Absalom to go on with the revolt right up until the bitter end.
We have to be careful where we look for advice and guidance. Sadly, we live in a broken world and the hatred others feel can easily permeate into our lives if we are not guarded against it. Remember friends, the words of Philippians 4:8; whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Loving God, sometimes we seek advice in the wrong places, we make mistakes and we end up hurting others. Help us to seek only your will rather than the will of those around us and guard us against advice we know in our hearts to be bad advice and not of you. Amen.
The Rev’d Josh Thomas, Minister of Petersfield and Liss URC with The Beacon Church, Bordon
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