Bible Readings for September 21st
Back in 2 Samuel 15, David’s friend Hushai wanted to flee Jerusalem with David. Instead, David instructed Hushai to stay and pretend to join Absalom. In this way, Hushai could help David from inside Absalom’s inner circle to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel (2 Sam. 15:32–37). This was no small task, since “in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom” (2 Sam. 16:23). For this reason, as David was departing Jerusalem, he also sought God’s help in this task, praying, “O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (2 Sam. 15:31).
In today’s reading from 2 Samuel 17, then, Hushai gets his opportunity to help David by persuading Absalom to consider the counsel of Ahithophel as foolishness. So, as Absalom calls his counselors together, Ahithophel delivers the best plan, which is to overwhelm David quickly, before David has a chance to regroup and plan his defense (2 Sam. 17:1–3). He proposes the idea with matter-of-fact certainty, “And the advice seemed right in the eyes of Absalom and all the elders of Israel” (2 Sam. 17:4).
Hushai, however, counters Ahithophel’s plan with a strategy secretly designed to give David the time he desperately needs to prepare himself for battle. He eloquently argues that Absalom should wait until he has gathered all Israel to himself to join him in battle against David in order to assure the victory, and all the people of Israel believe Hushai’s counsel to be better than Ahithophel’s (2 Sam. 17:14).
Certainly, part of the reason Hushai’s counsel is better received lies in the fact that he uses imaginative phrases and descriptions, speaking, for example, of David as a bear robbed of her cubs (2 Sam. 17:8) and about gathering a giant army of Israelites “as the sand by the sea for multitude” (2 Sam. 17:11).1 But ultimately, Yahweh himself answers the prayer of David: “For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm to Absalom” (2 Sam. 17:14).
The way David and Hushai integrate strategic planning with prayerful trust in Yahweh is wise. We ought to avoid the kind of scheming that ignores Yahweh’s sovereign role in ordering the events of human history, but we also should avoid passive, fatalistic thinking that prevents us from taking careful, strategic action in our lives. Following Jesus as his disciples requires us to act as wisely as serpents—albeit with the innocence of doves (Matt. 10:16)—but also to pray unceasingly (1 Thess. 5:17).
How would Jesus redirect your life today? By prodding you out of passive inactivity, or by teaching you to trust him in prayer?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.