With every one of his many followers across the Jordan River David could feel safe, but still be in danger from a lack of provisions. Then came God’s third act of sovereignty. He provisioned David’s army.
God delighted the king when he arrived at Mahanaim, in the highlands of Gilead east of the River. Sympathetic foreign rulers and Israelite patricians sent provisions. They brought every vessel of the potter’s wheel, every article of clothing from the loom, every kind of food from agriculture and every meat from animal husbandry. And weapons and their ammunition. And curds and wine and roasted grains.
As Wellington said about Waterloo, David had won “a near thing-victory” in retreat. Without his timely evacuation of Jerusalem; the providential appearance of Hushai on Olivet and Ziba beyond; the arrival of the young spies; and the bountiful provisions in Gilead, succeeding Israelite history could have been different. But...those timely events and circumstances were simply God’s way of exercising his rule over human pretensions. While giving humanity complete freedom of action, every decision they made worked his perfect will. He would provide more proofs of sovereignty in the coming battle.
That’s the story so far. As Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story” comes later. End Part V
The second example of God’s sovereignty came with Hushai’s hurrying intelligence to David. Remember that both Ahithophel and Hushai appeared separately before Absalom’s cabinet, who then met in executive session to decide between their counsels.
Not immediately knowing their decision, and not trusting his own perspective or Absalom’s disposition, Hushai communicated an urgent message to David via the priests, a servant girl and the priests’ sons.
The message chilled David: “Cross the Jordan ASAP. You are in great danger.” In colloquial speech: Get outta town!
At this point the account becomes a spine-tingling spy thriller. A young Absalom loyalist saw the servant girl talking to Ahimaaz and Jonathan at en-Rogel, where they remained awaiting news. Instantly divining their purpose, he turned and ran for the nearest gate into Jerusalem. Understanding their peril, the duo rushed northeast to out-leg the pursuit sure to follow.
That’s where the story got even more interesting. In Bahurim, their destination not far away, David’s intelligence service had arranged a safe-house. In a short time the men gained the summit of a hill and saw a farmhouse in the valley below.
Meanwhile, the boy had informed Absalom, who ordered a cavalry detachment to pursue and capture the spies.
And meanwhile, at the house in Bahurim, the housewife worked in her yard, glanced up the hill to the southwest and watched as two familiar faces crossed the crest at full speed, then shuffled themselves downward by hand holds that allowed rapid descent while keeping them from tumbling head-over-heels below.
A few breathless words apprised her. And, quickly acting on a pre-arranged plan, she sent them down the well-shaft, over which she placed the wood covering often used after harvest.
Quickly spreading grain over it she then smoothed the piles level and slowly picked at tares, as if working at length. Before long she heard cavalrymen clicking and clacking their way down the stony hill, pulling their mounts to a hard stop at the well, without ceremony demanding the two men.
Without looking at them, she tossed her head and right hand carelessly toward the northwest, as if they had gone that way. Preparing for that day and hour, the woman prevailed.
After being released the two men raced on to the fords of the Jordan and reached David. Shortly afterwards, he put his forces in motion, sending all non-combatants across the fords, his warriors their rear-guard. Then, with every civilian safe, every warrior followed. At daybreak, not a person remained west of the River. End Part IV
Hushai’s answer to Ahithophel’s counsel proved that God provided it. He declared, “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time” II Samuel 17:7. This time may refer to Hushai’s previous agreement when Ahithophel advised Absalom’s use of David’s concubines to prove his irrevocable break with the king.
That agreement gave this disagreement integrity. Senator Barry Goldwater once said we must give our opponent credit where we can. Otherwise, opposition loses its effectiveness. When Ernie Pyle sent home dispatches praising American triumphs in North Africa, 1942, they had authenticity. For some weeks previously he had filed sobering accounts of American losses in North Africa.
Hushai agreed with Ahithophel’s earlier suggestion, revolting as it was, since it wouldn’t be the critical issue over which all would be won or lost. Christians can learn from that. Changing worship styles may be no more than an alteration in society’s taste in music. Adjust to it. But if the change involves a change in message, oppose it. Christians cannot tolerate any teaching that diminishes Christ’s Virgin Birth, Deity, Miracles, Substitutionary Death and Bodily Resurrection. These are essentials distinguishing Christianity.
Giving up a non-supporting wall in Ahithophel’s counsel, Hushai protected the all-essential fulcrum of Israel: King David at the Jordan. He knew the desperately unprotected condition of civilians with David. That’s why God directed him to propose a different strategy. Take a few days to mobilize all the nation’s military loyal to Absalom. Then attack the king with overwhelming force.
God used Hushai’s appeal because he knew it appealed to Absalom’s weakness: cowardice.
Which led to the second example of God’s sovereignty. End Part III
God clearly exercised his providence in bringing disaster on Absalom. First, he made Hushai’s counsel superior to Ahithophel’s. Ahithophel recommended swift action, employing a select group of warriors and attack tonight with 12,000 men. Sound advice.
General Andrew Jackson learned to his dismay that British forces had arrived that night within 10 miles of New Orleans 12/20/1814. His intelligence service had them at least twice that far away. The shock, however, stirred Jackson to action, not lethargy. He ordered immediate attacks on all enemy positions. Which delivered punishing, if not mortal, blows.
They had the opposite impact on the British commander. Thinking it meant the Americans had larger forces than expected, he waited for reinforcements of his own. The delay gave Jackson time to organize the defense of New Orleans that, on January 8, 1815, wrecked British attacks in 30 minutes.
Ahithophel’s strategy could have succeeded if promptly implemented. However...thank God for that transition word...God wanted Absalom destroyed and providentially had Hushai effect it.
When Absalom sent Ahithophel from the room, he summoned Hushai. “Here’s what Ahithophel said...what is your view?” The old man shot a quick prayer for God’s guidance and, when he opened his mouth to reply, God had answered. End Part II
This blog comes from a message preached from II Samuel 17:1-22.
In the first volume of his multi-series on American history, Page Smith noted that older and modern historians differ on the subject of God’s sovereignty.
For example, older scholars attributed colonial success in the war to God’s providence: Modern historians look at the same facts: often warring, always jealous colonies agreeing to declare Independence; those same militarily weak colonies successfully contesting England’s vast military superiority; then, in a greater miracle-still, forging a United States from all their differences.
However, while modern scholars disregard God’s providence, they still see it as “mysterious indeed.”
Question, then: since even unbelievers see American history as “mysterious,” why not admit God’s sovereignty as the cause? For his WAYS are always “mysterious.” What historian Henri Pirenne called the “hazard” of history that frustrates our calculations isn’t hazard at all, but God’s personal will expressed in history, appointing, permitting, concluding all that we experience.
God’s control of events, nations and populations is the message of all revelation, particularly the book the Revelation. In Shakespeare’s words, his divine will “shapes our ends.” End Part I
Years ago in West Virginia a girl matured in a very poor miner’s family, in an equivalent house. (Shades of the Hurley house in Lincoln, Illinois in the first third of the 20th century.)
Ashamed of her house, she had dates call for and return her to a friend’s house. To there and from there she walked home.
A 19 year old college lad, from a prosperous family, once dated her and dutifully called at her friend’s house. Then, to her dismay, returned her to her house at the end of the date.
She naturally began to cry. Which elicited his sympathy followed by a gentle rebuke. He had known all along where she lived, and it didn’t matter to him. He knew her father as a hard-working miner, doing his best for the family. Given that, why was she ashamed of a humble home? He added that as much good could come from hovels as mansions.
I don’t know the outcome for the guy and girl. I do know that we must not judge a person’s worth, skill or future by outward appearances. Jesus, after all, had his nativity in a food trough of a manger. Proving that it didn’t take a crown to make a king. Nor does it take prosperity or education to make a fruitful disciple of Christ out of a forgiven sinner.
Humanists can face death bravely, joining billions of mortals who have endured loss and hardship throughout history. And all without the army of experts on whom our culture now depends to get us through difficulties.
But do not be deceived. Humanists can only glory in the person’s memory, nothing more. Of course, they boast of THAT, what they can do. They never mention what they can’t! Of course, they dismiss what they CAN’T as irrelevant, but that only masks their refusal to face embarrassing questions about the after-life.
Shakespeare had a more Biblical view. In Henry VI he had the Duke of Gloucester say, “My lord, ‘tis but a base, ignoble mind That mounts no higher than a bird can soar” A2 S1 Ll13-14. And ‘tis but an ignoble mind that soars no higher than this world’s concerns. For it can never affirmatively hope for Resurrection beyond death.
William Ernest Henley wrote the poem Invictus, in which he gloried in his unconquerable will. The poem seethed with human arrogance. “I thank whatever gods may be...” he wrote in the first stanza. Whatever gods may be? As if the Living, Eternal God doesn’t exist!
“Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade....,” he wrote in the third. The “horror of the shade?” As if only despair lurked beyond the grave?
Trust no one, including yourself, who at the end leaves you staring into the dark....when Jesus Christ has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel!
Trust no one, including yourself, who at the end leaves you NOWHERE when you GET THERE....when Jesus Christ promises to conduct every believer into God’s Personal Presence in the New Jerusalem where infinite Joys await! Fini
Alabama football coach Bear Bryant closed his career in December, 1982, by winning the Liberty Bowl. When a reporter at a news conference before the game asked what he would do differently in his life, Bryant replied, “First off, I wish I could have been a better Christians.”
In that response Bear Bryant proved himself aware of the Christian’s most powerful hope: resurrection of the body changed and fit for God’s new world. Not just hope for immortality of the spirit—which even Greek philosophy allowed—but for a new resurrected body—which Greek philosophy denied.
The ages-old question, then, isn’t merely, “If we die, shall we live again?” But, “If we rise from the dead, shall we be different from what we now know?”
Yes, Yes, Yes!
In a Gunsmoke TV show, Actor jack Albertson played Danny, whose terminal heart disease would soon kill him. He conspired to defraud Scott Brady, who played a greedy saloon keeper who had hired men to kill Matt Dillon. At the end of the show Brady killed Danny and was arrested.
Indiana, an alcoholic played by Vito Scotti, and a friend of Danny’s, came upon the scene with Danny dead in the street. As Indiana neared he began shouting, “Danny Wilson, where are you? Danny Wilson, where are you?”
Kneeling at the corpse Doc Adams, turned and said to Kitty, “That’s the most relevant question I’ve ever heard.” And he was right. For it’s really the ultimate question facing every human. WHERE ARE WE after we take our last breath and the next person we see is God Almighty on his throne, with Jesus Christ sitting at his right hand? End Part I
Delaying reconciliation makes its ultimate achievement difficult, perhaps impossible. No doubt that Absalom had insurrection in mind before he returned to Jerusalem. But David’s refusal to immediately reconcile with him did nothing to prevent it.
Like David, we sometimes wait too long to reconcile. My older sister and a sister-in-law had been feuding for some time when mom died after surgery. Her death reconciled them, but she didn’t experience it.
Bertram discovered that in Shakespeare’s All’s Well That End’s Well.” He finally admitted his love for Helena. But too late. The king reprimanded him:...”like a remorseful pardon slowly carried...turns a sour offense” is a love offered too late. We would say, Love that comes too late is like a pardon carried too slowly. Or like the messenger General Gates sent to congress in Philadelphia announcing his victory over General Burgoyne at Saratoga. Congress voted the messenger a pair of spurs, not a financial reward. He needed to have used them on his horse to hurry the good news.
If a kiss comes too late to reconcile; if love can be too-tardily expressed, forgiveness withheld too long can lose its potency when finally offered. Let us, believers in Christ’s forgiveness of our sins, quickly offer it to others for their mere offenses against us. Fini
Like David, we too often settle for physical restoration with adversaries instead of seeking mental and spiritual reconciliation. The early church faced that issue, not always successfully, the Corinthian and Roman churches conspicuous failures.
How often, to this day, members of the same church body worship with each other without being reconciled to each other. Like Henry Kissinger and the North Korean delegates meeting to end the Viet Nam War, Christians sit a few feet apart from each other spatially but eons apart mentally.
In Shakespeare’s words, hurts, like wounds, “heal by degrees.” In 1067 William the Conqueror so devastated rebellious northern and western England that they didn’t recover until the 19th century.
But wounds and land are physical and geographical entities. They can’t calculate the presence of God’s grace in life. And we can never use political dimensions or nature’s recovery from abuse to excuse our refusal to let the Holy Spirit heal our interpersonal hurts.
One of the truest tests of forgiveness is its effect on our relationship with people. We can claim restoration to God only by our reconciliation with God through Christ. And since that means the absence of ill-will between God and us, it can’t allow the presence of ill-will between reconciled Christians.
In personal relationships, then, people can more easily be restored than reconciled. And restoration may be all that can be achieved. Nevertheless, reconciliation surpasses restoration. And where restoration can precede reconciliation, only reconciliation perfects restoration. Let us not emphasize the former and dismiss the latter. For where restoration may not lead to reconciliation, the latter always leads to the former. End Part III