2 Samuel 17:1-14 Reject Vanity and Focus on Things That Truly Matter
2 Samuel 17:1-14
Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, “Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. 2 I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, 3 and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only one man’s life that you seek. Then you will be at peace with all the people.” 4 This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.
5 But then Absalom said, “Bring in Hushai the Arkite. Let’s see what he thinks about this.” 6 When Hushai arrived, Absalom told him what Ahithophel had said. Then he asked, “What is your opinion? Should we follow Ahithophel’s advice? If not, what do you suggest?”
7 “Well,” Hushai replied to Absalom, “this time Ahithophel has made a mistake. 8 You know your father and his men; they are mighty warriors. Right now they are as enraged as a mother bear who has been robbed of her cubs. And remember that your father is an experienced man of war. He won’t be spending the night among the troops. 9 He has probably already hidden in some pit or cave. And when he comes out and attacks and a few of your men fall, there will be panic among your troops, and the word will spread that Absalom’s men are being slaughtered. 10 Then even the bravest soldiers, though they have the heart of a lion, will be paralyzed with fear. For all Israel knows what a mighty warrior your father is and how courageous his men are.
11 “I recommend that you mobilize the entire army of Israel, bringing them from as far away as Dan in the north and Beersheba in the south. That way you will have an army as numerous as the sand on the seashore. And I advise that you personally lead the troops. 12 When we find David, we’ll fall on him like dew that falls on the ground. Then neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. 13 And if David were to escape into some town, you will have all Israel there at your command. Then we can take ropes and drag the walls of the town into the nearest valley until every stone is torn down.”
14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “Hushai’s advice is better than Ahithophel’s.” For the Lord had determined to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, which really was the better plan, so that he could bring disaster on Absalom.
Absalom’s rebellion collapsed because he was detracted from his sole objective of eliminating David to feeding his pride and vanity. Ahithophel’s judgment and stratagem was almost perfect in capitalizing on the weariness of David’s men in a quick and crisp operation. But Absalom’s weakness betrays and deprives him of even the wisest counsel. In today’s passage, we learn the importance of rejecting the lure of fame and keeping our focus on the things and truly matter.
Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight – Ahithophel knew too well that timing is the essence. The element of surprise and speed is essential in defeating David; brute strength avails nothing. Ahithophel’s stratagem to engage David while he and his men are emotionally discouraged and physically weary appears to bode well with Absalom and the tribal leaders.
This time Ahithophel has made a mistake – However, despite the soundness of Ahithophel’s plans, he fails to satisfy the narcissist within Absalom. Perhaps, Absalom thought that Ahithophel’s plan still lacked a key element – the personal involvement of Absalom. In any case, Absalom demands to play the key role in capturing David himself but not without the pomp of an entire army behind him. Hushai knew that Ahithophel’s plan is fatal from David’s standpoint, and he must buy time. Hushai capitalizes on the importance of Absalom’s personal involvement in the capture of David and the reputation for valor of David and his warriors. He points out that it is unlikely that David, being an experienced warrior would risk camping with his troops. Moreover, in the confusion of a night attack, all it takes is a rumor of valiant resistance by David to spark wild panic among their troops. Hushai’s plan involving a pan-Israelite army (from as far away as Dan in the north and Beersheba in the south) would take much longer to implement, and this was precisely what David and his troops needed.
And I advise that you personally lead the troops – While Ahithophel talked of himself personally leading the night attack, Hushai seduces Absalom with visuals of his majestic glory on the battlefield. Hushai’s success in averting disaster was not entirely due to his ingenuity in exploiting Absalom’s ego but God’s sovereign grip over human history. Hushai’s meeting with David at Mount Olives, the brilliant ruse of Hushai’s defection to Absalom, as well as Absalom’s decision to give Hushai a hearing, right up to the defeat of Ahithophel’s counsel are attributed to God’s providence and the obedience of his people.
- We don’t need to know the whole plan, but just the next step will suffice. Most people cannot rest until they see and understand God’s grand scheme of things. Yet a person of faith will not demand to know the whole picture, but will be diligent in knowing the next step and taking it. Even if we understand everything, it does not guarantee a peace of mind that all will be well. Peace comes not from knowing all things, but by trusting in the all-knowing God. By trusting God, we only need to know the next step and take it. God conceived the plan and reinserted Zadok back into the temple as intelligence gatherer and Hushai into Absalom’s war council to frustrate Ahithophel’s advice: For the Lord had determined to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, … so that he could bring disaster on Absalom. David has no access to information relating to Hushai’s circumstances nor Absalom’s response towards Ahithophel’s counsel, and he could only trust God and wait at the shallows of Jordan river. Hence, we should learn to trust God by obeying His instructions and living one day at a time without worrying.
- Pride blinds our eyes to the dangers that lie ahead, humility releases divine insights for success. Pride and narcissism deceive men into seeing themselves as bigger than who they really are; pride causes men to discount the signs of danger and ignore sound advice preferring the fantasy of self-adoration and grandeur. Absalom traded a sound plan for one that is no more than a farcical circus leading to his own demise. Many businesses fell as quick as they rise because they made themselves out to be larger than life. We must repent if we attach our ego to the “thing” that we have so proudly created. Very soon the “thing” will fall like a house of cards with us in it.
- Pride and vanity cause us to detract from the things that truly matter. Many began with a pure motive of doing God’s will, but as soon as they discover an opportunity to achieve fame, they veer from the things that truly matter. Absalom could not resist the vanity of commanding a pan-Israelite army that promised full battle annihilation of David and his men. His pride detracted him from the sole purpose of eliminating David with minimal loss of life. Therefore, we must be vigilant to shunt the lure of fame and focus on the things that build up people.
- Do you have a habit of being hesitant and often procrastinating on things? Perhaps, you should focus on what needs to be done one day at a time. Trying to grasp the whole plan will only cause uncertainties and fears.
- Do you have a hidden desire to want to be seen as successful? That is a self-centered desire that will stumble us. Instead, we should focus on helping others transcend their poverty. In helping others to become successful, we become successful ourselves.
Dear Lord, help me maintain my focus on accomplishing the work you have entrusted to me today. Fill me with your peace as I learn to live one day at a time. I reject the lure of fame and focus on the course of building people and bringing them into your kingdom. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.