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
Human enterprises can begin small and grow large. Google founded in 1998, Facebook in 2004 and Amazon in 1994 as examples. They can also, after expansion to many, shrink to fewer, one or none. Sears an example of the former, Blockbuster the latter Tower Records the last.
The kingdom of God on earth began with one man, Abram, Genesis 12:1-2. He alone carried that heritage 100 years before God added one to it in a baby called Isaac. He carried it in himself until, at age 60, his wife gave birth to twins Esau and Jacob.
Quietly, unobtrusively and privately, Jacob shared the heritage with Isaac for 75 years, outlasting his father’s personal disregard for God’s word and will. From an appetite for red stew Isaac would have forfeited the promise God made to Jacob before he was born Genesis 25:21-34.
Rebekah, because she didn’t forget the promise God made—what mother could?—outwitted her husband’s rejection of God and saved the birthright privileges God promised Jacob. She sent him away when Esau’s fit of rage determined to kill him. Rebekah sent him to her home country. If she had known how long Jacob would be gone, and she would never see him again, she may not have been so willing to part with him.
Jacob flourished numerically in Rebekah’s homeland by fathering through four women 12 sons and 1 girl in 20 years. For the first time in history God’s kingdom had multiple members.
Anointing Joseph as savior when the kingdom grew to 70 members seemed to exalt him to carry the kingdom’s torch into the future. But no, God separated Judah from the brothers when he insisted that Israel allow the brothers’ return to Egypt for provisions. However, some 20 years passed before Judah would be revealed as the progenitor of the Messiah Genesis 49:8-11.
From 12 men, fathering 12 tribes, God reduced leadership of the kingdom to one man and one tribe. The tribe of Judah would thereafter be the focus of messianic expectations. On one occasion the messianic line would be reduced to a single male as its repository II Kings 11:1-4.
Nevertheless, with one or many, that LINE remained intact, never collapsing into a shambles or vanishing. Nothing in history before then, at the time, or afterwards eliminated God’s kingdom. Nothing in history since, and certainly now, has or can. Anyone who endeavors to be the assassin of God’s kingdom finds himself instead under the STONE that crushes all enemies to dust Matthew 21:44.
A San Diego Union-Tribune story, 3/8/19, noted that only one of formerly 9000 Blockbuster Stores remains, and that in Bend, Oregon. Netflix K-O’d the company. Tower Records still has a brick and mortar presence in Japan, but none in America. One Howard Johnson’s exists in Lake George, New York, the last of what had once been the nation’s largest restaurant chain. Dollar Tree remains a strong presence, but has closed nearly 400 of Family Dollar Stores in 2019.
By mid-February, 2019, retailers had closed 2187 stores in the U.S. All of this has a spiritual application. The kingdom of God on earth began with one man, Abram, Genesis 12:1-2, but what exponential differences distinguished it from all other enterprises. End Part I
Jeremiah and Ezekiel shared with faithful men the hardship of preaching God’s word to faithless Israel. Balaam was among the first who resisted God but found himself subject to his sovereignty.
Isaac, son of Abraham, and father of twins Esau and Jacob, intentionally tried to resist God’s 75 year-old prediction that the elder Esau would serve the younger Jacob. Genesis 25:19-34, 27-28 have the accounts.
Apologists for Isaac say that the long period between the boys’ birth and his blessing could account for his negligence. Funny that Rebekah and Jacob remembered it and Isaac forgot it. Indeed, that God had to use Rebekah to preserve his prediction shames Isaac. Especially since he ignored God’s word simply by loving Esau’s kitchen skills. Isaac’s taste buds tried to trump God’s predictive will!
However, lest we condemn him too harshly, remember that MANY people compromise or dismiss God’s control of their lives by satisfying themselves with lesser goals! How like perverted Israelites are SO MANY today, not a few of them Christian, who reject God “for a few handfuls of barley and scraps of bread” Ezekiel 13:19a.
Wicked old Caiaphas joins this unholy alliance. John 11:45-53 has the account. When toadies rushed news of Lazarus’ resurrection to the Sanhedrin, a hand-wringing meeting followed. They obviously had no control of the Nazarene preacher. He was sure to bring Roman interference in Israel.
Note: none of the miracles Jesus performed in more than 3 years, including resurrections, HAD raised concern in Roman authorities. Why would Lazarus’? It wasn’t resurrection the Sanhedrin feared: it was resurrection in Jerusalem, their power base! But it would have brought only further estrangement of the people from the leaders, not the removal of those men by Rome.
Nevertheless...Caiaphas’ pronouncement that one man, not the nation, should die, fulfilled God’s intention to preach Christ beyond Jerusalem to capitals of the Empire. The Sanhedrin thought: kill Jesus and he’s gone. God said: kill Jesus and it will simply make salvation from sin possible for all people everywhere. Caiaphas didn’t know that, but what difference did that make? The intentional wicked, and the good but sinful believer, serve God’s purpose. The former may resent it, the believer may regret his role...but God’s Glory remains intact. Fini
Prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and apostles Peter and Paul, encountered opposition when preaching God’s word. By submitting to God’s call, and equally submissive to the rejection, persecution or imprisonment endemic to their preaching, they had the satisfaction of sharing with God in his work.
Consider the far greater cost to three men who fulfilled God’s will when speaking despite personal desires hostile to his purpose. The heathen diviner Balaam comes to mind. Numbers
22-24 has the account. As Egyptians came to dread a numerically-fecund enslaved Israel, Moab dreaded an Israelite army bivouacked on the Plains of Moab.
Undefeated in every conflict east of the Jordan, north from the Dead Sea to Bashan, northeast of Lake Galilee, King Balak saw no way to overcome it militarily. Knowing of Balaam’s reputation as a diviner, he hired him to put a curse on Israel.
Long story short, in four Oracles God instead filled Balaam’s mouth with blessings on Israel. Proving, first, when Satan challenges God’s predictive will, any attack on God’s people becomes support for them. Proving, second, however, while God wouldn’t let Israel be cursed by Satan, Israel allowed itself to be seduced into immorality by Balaam’s suggestion to Balak, Numbers 25. Satan cannot defeat Christians if we remain faithful to God. He can seduce Christians into spiritual neutrality or hostility to God by compromising Biblical standards—the curse of 21st century preaching. End Part II
With prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel as examples, even those desiring to proclaim God’s word struggle to heed his summons. He gave as his powerful commission to Jeremiah: “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them” 1:17. He gave an equally powerful commission to Ezekiel: “And you,
son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words...though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions....” 2:6.
God promised Jeremiah, “...I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes” 5:14. He promised Ezekiel that, while “the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate...I will make...your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint....13:7, 9.
Both prophets shared God’s righteous anger against their depraved people. Both paid the price their message of doom cost them. And both served under divine compulsion. When Jeremiah found rejection too much to bear, and felt God had made his work too hard, he decided to no longer speak for God. Only to find himself even more stressed. For God’s word was in his heart “like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” 20:9.
Ezekiel experienced a negative initial response when called to serve. “The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me: 3:14. End Part I