David is fleeing for his life again. Not from Saul but from his own son Absalom. Absalom has been working of stealing his father’s throne since coming back to Jerusalem.
Without David’s approval or his knowledge, Absalom has been slowly turning the people to himself. “Things would be so much better if I were in charge.” Pie crust promises but the people haven’t seen through it. I still wonder at how he is able to do this right under David’s nose but I suppose that is part of their relationship. Absalom is cunning and David is trusting. I know I didn’t look at the ‘last two chapters’ of David’s story in ‘boots on the ground’ fashion but I want to go there with today’s reading. Let’s dive in and see where the Spirit takes us.
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It is a normal day in Jerusalem. Merchants in their stalls, shoppers looking for the best bargains, carpenters hard at work, children learning their lessons, animals driven through the streets, soldiers keeping order. All the things you would find on any other ordinary day.
But something is in the air. It isn’t something tangible; at least not yet. Its source is miles away but it will change the face of the city in ways that no one expects. If you listen closely you can hear it approaching.
Running footsteps approach David’s home. Nothing too unusual as messengers are always coming and going from the home of the king. Yet this one comes with an urgency unmatched in recent days. Surely this one brings news of trouble. He is quickly ushered into the throne room of David where he waits to be acknowledged by the king.
David could tell the news was bad by the way the messenger held himself. He was fidgety and his face was drawn. He was in a hurry to get the words out but was restraining himself out of honor for his king. “What news do you bring” asks David as he sits forward in his seat.
“My king, I bring you dire news. Absalom has installed himself as king of Hebron. And ‘the hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom’ (verse 13b). It has been heard in the streets of several of the cities and several tribes, ‘Absalom is king at Hebron!’ (verse 10b).”
The color drained from David’s face at these words. “How did this happen” is the first thought that springs to David’s mind but he doesn’t have the time right now to ponder this thought. The next thought is the one he must pour his attention to. “Absalom is dangerous and would think nothing of killing ALL who stand in his way to the throne of Israel.”
“Thank you for bringing this word to me so quickly. Remain here as I may have need of your services again.”
“I am ever at your service my king.”
Abket, David’s personal servant and several of those under him are ministering in David’s throne room. David addresses them with urgency. “Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, least he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword” (verse 14b).
Abket, David’s ever loyal servant, responded immediately for the group. “Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king decides” (verse 15).
It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ situation. Each of the servants who heard the king’s command rushes to inform the other servants and David’s family. The whole household of David is in a rush to leave. They can only take the barest of necessities with them; food for travel and a change of clothes.
As the household assembles it is discovered that Ithream and his family are missing. David calls out to his household, “Does anyone know the whereabouts of Ithream?”
“I heard they were going to Gibeah to sacrifice to the Lord for their newest child.”
David turns to the messenger. “Run before us and bring word to them to join us.”
The messenger can set a much faster pace as he is one man alone. David has a MASSIVE amount of people he is moving together. Before leaving David appoints ten of his concubines to stay behind and care for the king’s home.
Everything is in place. David gives the order. “We leave now!”
A column of soldiers surround David’s immediate family as they move through the city. David is leading the way. As they approach the last house before reaching the fortified gate David stops and has all his servants pass by him. He is taking a count and ensuring that all are present.
While reviewing the members of his procession he notices more than just his family has fallen in behind him. When his servants dispersed to let everyone know of his evacuation his family wasn’t the only ones to hear the news. Those who were loyal to him joined in. The Cherethites, the Pelethites and all six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath were part of those following him now. David was touched by their loyalty but this wasn’t their fight. He stopped Ittai the Gittite and spoke to him.
“Why do you also go with us? Go back and stay with the king, for you are a foreigner and also an exile from your home. You came only yesterday, and shall I today make you wander about wit us, since I go I know not where? Go back and take your brothers with you, and may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you” (verses 19-20).
Ittai shakes his head at David’s care for him but he and those with him will follow David wherever he goes. “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the ling lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be” (verse 21).
David’s heart nearly burst with gratitude. “Go then, pass on” (verse 22a).
Ittai and all those who were with him filed out the gate following David’s family. They would all make their way across the Kidron brook towards the wilderness.
As this large contingent of people continue to pass through the fortified gate David stands watch. He won’t leave until all his people are safe. While he is watching Abiathar, Zadok and the Levites arrive bearing the Ark of the Lord. David is touched by their loyalty but he cannot let them come with him. God is the God of Israel, not just of David. Abiathar and those with him set the Ark down and wait while the rest of David’s procession passes through the gate. Once the last man, woman and child have passed through David turns his attention to those bearing the Ark.
Firmly but gently he tells them they cannot come with him. “Carry the Ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me back and let me see both it and His dwelling place. But if He says ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let Him do to me what seems good to him” (verses 25-26).
David has a further task for this group of loyal men. They will be his eyes and ears in the city. They can bring him word of what Absalom is planning. He turns to Zadok and addresses him personally. “Are you not a seer? Go back to the city in peace, with your two sons, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. See, I will wait at the fords of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me” (verses 27-28).
This is a sound plan in the eyes of the Levites. They quickly agree and return back the way they came. They will carry word to David any time Absalom’s behavior means peril for David.
The whole time the large procession made its way out of the city those that remained wept openly at the scene. Their king was in retreat. The man whom God sent to save them from their enemies. They had no idea what to expect next.
The Kidron brook lies between Jerusalem and Mt. of Olives. This is the path David has laid out for those following him. After exiting the fortified gate the people crossed the Kidron brook and waited for David. When the last person had passed before him David made his way to the front of the group. After passing through the Kidron brook himself he removed the sandals from his feet. This next step in their journey would be done in great reverence to the Lord and with obvious signs of mourning.
David begins to ascend the Mt. of Olives. At the summit of this mountain is a special place where God is worshiped. With his shoes tied at his belt, his hands covering his head and weeping David leads the people up the mountain. Those following him have their heads covered and are weeping along with him.
While only partway up the mountain a messenger met David with another message.
“Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom” (verse 31b).
David shakes his head in disbelief. Ahithophel is one of David’s most treasured advisors for he always delivers wise counsel. David utters a heartfelt prayer as he continues on up the mountain. “O Lord, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (verse 31c).
This was the perfect place to pray, even if he didn’t have time to stop and truly seek the Lord. And it appears that the Lord was listening to David’s need. As David was coming up to the summit Hushai the Archite came to meet him. His coat was torn and dirt was on his head. Signs of mourning for he too had heard of David’s flight. Hushai had planned to join David but David had other ideas for him. Ideas that would assist in answers to the prayer he just prayed.
David greeted him quickly but then got right to work. “If you go on with me, you will be a burden to me. But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father’s servant in the past, so now I will be your servant,’ then you will defeat for me the counsel of Ahithophel. Are not Zadok and Abiathar the priests with your there? So whatever you hear from the king’s house, tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priest. Behold, their two sons are with them there, Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son, and Jonathan, Abiathar’s son, and by them you shall send to me everything your hear” (verses 33-36).
Hushai agreed that this was a very good plan indeed. He parted ways with David; Hushai to the city and David to the wilderness. Hushai makes it through the great crowd following David back into the city at the same time Absalom and those following him make it into the other side of the city. David and his group have escaped just in time!
(to be continued)
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I cannot imagine the size of this procession. I have no doubt it rivaled that of David while he was on the run from Saul. There are men, women and children ALL making this move together. They have no idea where they will end up or what awaits them. All they know is that the trust David with their lives. And he trusts God with ALL their futures.
Absalom is an unscrupulous person. I have no doubts that he would have killed his brothers and sisters and even David if he had found them still in residence. So far he doesn’t know that David has left. When he finds out he will be so busy ‘marking his territory’ that David will gain some breathing room. But that is a story for another day.
Father God I cannot imagine the fear in David’s heart as he orders him family to pick up stakes and run. I don’t know if ‘fear’ is the right word though. He went out with confidence in You. He had no idea what You had in mind for him but he was willing to walk whatever path You put him on. He hoped to return but he had no guarantees. What he had was faith.
I want faith like David had. I DON’T want to test it like he had to though. The tests I have are enough for me! Thank You for building my faith bit by bit. I have no idea where You plan to take me next but I will follow wherever You lead.