David waits by the gate of the city for news from the battle field. Two men come bearing the results. One asked to run and one was tasked to run.
The first thing I want to know is why Ahimaaz insisted on running with this news. Ahimaaz was one of the two who carried the warning to David to get onto the other side of the Jordan. This man was familiar to the king. He was a trusted messenger. Did he feel entitled to be the one to tell the king the battle was over? He argued with Joab over being allowed to go.
The second is, when he gets to David, WHY doesn’t Ahimaaz tell all he knew? He apparently went out in battle with Joab. Before anyone was sent, Absalom’s fate was known. Joab chose someone not of Israel to carry the news of Absalom’s death. But Ahimaaz insisted on going and outran the other runner so HE could break the news to the king. But he stopped short of the whole truth. He lied when he said he didn’t know what the “great commotion” was. Ahimaaz chose to play dumb and let the bad news be delivered by the Cushite runner.
When the second runner shared the whole truth with David he did so with the expectation that the news would be well received. He didn’t attempt to hide the truth. Had he heard David’s command before they left? David did NOT react as expected.
Let’s join our story already in progress and see where the Spirit takes us today.
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The last stone is laid upon the final grave of Absalom. With its placement Joab ponders Absalom’s pillar. Joab thinks it funny that Absalom’s monument in the King’s Valley is nowhere near his grave. “So much for keeping his name remembered” thinks Joab. Absalom hadn’t even waited for his ‘turn on the throne’ to erect his pillar. It was as if he knew he would never marry or have children. He expected to be forgotten. In terms of kingship, he probably would be forgotten.
It’s time to tell the king of their success. The battle is over. The war is won. But Absalom’s death is not going to please the king. Joab has NOT forgotten David’s last words to him; “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom” (verse 7b). As Joab contemplates the task of informing David, Ahimaaz approaches him.
“Let me run and carry news to the king that the Lord has delivered him from the hand of his enemies” (verse 19b).
Joab shakes his head and continues to look over the mound of stones that cover the king’s son. Finally he speaks. “You are not to carry news today. You may carry news another day, but today you shall carry no news, because the king’s son is dead” (verse 20). Joab turned away from Absalom’s grave and faces one of Cushites who fought alongside him. “Go, tell the king what you have seen” (verse 21b).
The Cushite was an excellent runner. He was fast and reliable. With a bow to Joab he takes off for the city where the king waits for news.
Ahimaaz was not satisfied. HE wanted to be the one to bring the victory to the king. He is not given up on delivering the message. He asks Joab permission once again. “Come what may, let me also run after the Cushite” (verse 22b).
Joab is confused by Ahimaaz’s desires. “Why will you run, my son, seeing that you will have no reward for the news?” (verse 22c).
Ahimaaz confirms his determination to run to David. “Come what may, I will run” (verse 23).
Joab shrugged his shoulders and issued the only word necessary for Ahimaaz’s to hear to begin his journey; “Run” (verse 23b).
Ahimaaz takes off like a sprinter coming out of the blocks. Instead of working his way carefully through the forest he goes by way of the plains. It is a longer route but Ahimaaz is confident he can complete it in time to reach David first.
David is sitting between the two gates, waiting for word. He wishes he would have gone out with his men but his captains thought it best he stay behind. He hates waiting!
The watchman calls out to David, “Someone is coming. He appears to be running.”
David calls back up to him. “If he is alone, there is news in his mouth” (verse 25b).
“He is alone.”
Both men wait while the runner draws closer. Several minutes pass and the watchman calls out again to David. “See, another man running alone!” (verse 26b).
David rises from his seat in anticipation. “He also brings news” (verse 26c).
The watchman’s eyes never leave the field. “I think the running of the first is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok” (verse 27a).
David is very pleased to hear this. “He is a good man and comes with good news” (verse 27b) said David.
David waits expectantly as Ahimaaz finally makes it to the gate. He can tell by the look on the king’s face that the Cushite runner has not reached him yet. He must be careful of how he shares his news with the king. “All is well” (verse 28b) cried out Ahimaaz during his approach. As soon as he reaches the king he bowed before him with his face to the earth. From this position he continues to deliver his report. “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king” (verse 28b).
The first words out of the king’s mouth pierce Ahimaaz. “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” (verse 29b).
Ahimaaz knew the king was going to ask this question but he can’t bring himself to answer it fully. “When Joab sent the king’s servant, your servant, I saw a great commotion, but I do not know what it was” (verse 29c). He knows the truth will be brought to the king very soon. He just can’t bring himself to be the one who does it, even after reassuring Joab that he could.
David needed more. He needed to know Absalom’s fate. The second runner is nearing the gate. He tells Ahimaaz, “Turn aside and stand here” so he will be out of the way as the second man brings more news.
The Cushite runner is excited as he greets David. “Good news for my lord the king! For the Lord has delivered you this day from the hand of all who rose up against you” (verse 31b).
David’s nerves are at their breaking point. He has to know. “Is it wall with the young man Absalom?” (verse 33b) David asks.
The Cushite, not knowing David’s desired answer gives the answer any victor in battle would welcome. “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up against you for evil be like that young man” (verse 32c).
The man’s face is beaming with joy as he delivers the news that breaks David’s heart. David stumbles backward and clutches his heart. He turns from the two runners and stumbles his way up to a chamber over the gate where he weeps in seclusion. As he ascended the stairs, using the walls for support, the runners heard his cries. “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (verse 33b).
The runners look to one another for guidance. Neither has any to give. They slowly make their way back to Joab. He needs to know of the king’s reaction.
(to be continued)
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I HATE being the bearer of bad news. It appears that Ahimaaz felt the same way AFTER leaving Joab. Why did he want to be the first to reach David? Did he want to see the king’s face when he learned of Absalom’s fate? Ahimaaz’s reluctance to share the truth didn’t alter the facts, only who had to deliver them. I wonder if Ahimaaz had shared it more delicately with David what might have happened. The Cushite thought he was bringing good news and so shared it full force.
How you say something is as important as the words themselves. We are never sure how our words are going to impact someone. All we can do is be truthful and gentle. Even when we think we are bringing good news, the one receiving it might not agree. Gentleness goes a long way. And the death of anyone is nothing to celebrate.
Father God, thank You for Your stories. Thank You for getting me involved in this one today. It helped take my mind off my own situation for a while. Thank You for having the vet share the truth with us gently yesterday. She knew her news was bad news. Thank You that I didn’t have to face it alone.
Help us with our search for another dog to fill the hole left behind. Thank You that You care about the things that touch me and my life. I don’t have to ‘pretend’ to be alright or hide away with my pain.
I feel for David. How much of his refusal to discipline his children play into this moment at the gate? Please don’t let me EVER find out in my life. Let me be willing to do the hard things as a parent and grandparent. Thank You also for refocusing me on Your truths.