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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Brother of Folly (2 Samuel 15)

    “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Paul warns Christians in 1 Corinthians 15:33.
    It’s very true that the more power and authority a person has, the more carefully they should select those closest to them, their advisors and counselors and friends. Not doing this could set a person up for betrayal in ways that could hurt very badly. But this isn’t any less true for the average person, you and me. We need to carefully select the company we keep as well.
    King David learned this as well, though only after he had experienced betrayal. Unfortunately for David, as we’re going to see, he was warned that this betrayal would take place because of his sin, and this betrayal led to him being temporarily and painfully overthrown as king. We’ll be in 2 Samuel 15 today, and it’s a cautionary tale of the consequences of sin, yes, but also of the importance of choosing your closest relationships wisely.
    David’s betrayal came with this warning from 2 Samuel 12:11, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.” David is told that one of the consequences for his sin is that someone from within his own house will turn against him and rise up. Someone close to him will claim everything David has as his own.
    In the chapters between this warning and our passage for this morning, we see one such person become more and more prominent. This person was Absalom, David’s son.
    Absalom appears on the scene prominently in 2 Samuel 13, as part of a family scandal. Absalom was David’s son, but not David’s firstborn. Absalom was assured a life of comfort, but he was not in line for the throne. Someday, the throne would pass to David’s firstborn son, Amnon. Amnon was Absalom’s half-brother. We’re also told that Absalom had a sister, Tamar.
    In 2 Samuel 13, Amnon falls in lust with his half-sister, Tamar. He deceives her to get her alone and he rapes her. When her brother, Absalom finds out, he’s furious, be he urges Tamar not to tell anyone else. Instead, Absalom bides his time, waiting for just the right moment, and then when he has put all the pieces into place, he has his half-brother, Amnon, killed. He gets his revenge for his sister’s dishonor, but in the process of doing this, he also manages to kill the son that was in line for the throne, which would have passed the line to Absalom.
    At the beginning of 2 Samuel 15, Absalom is not only the heir to the throne, but we’ll see him start to betray his father David so as to take the throne instead of waiting for David to die. Let’s look at these betrayals.
    2 Samuel 15:2-6, “Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.” Moreover, Absalom would say, “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.” And when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel.”
    One of the roles of the king was to act as a judge whenever someone in his kingdom had a dispute that needed to be settled. Absalom took that role upon himself when it was not his to take. Before the people in the kingdom could even reach David in his palace, Absalom got to them first. And as he acted as the judge like only the king should, he began to, as the verse says, “steal away the hearts of the men of Israel.” Here’s your first bulletin blank if you want to follow along, Absalom acted as JUDGE.
    He murdered and became the heir to the throne, and then he began to act as the king in judicial matters. He didn’t stop there.
    2 Samuel 15:7-9, “Now it came about at the end of forty years that Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go and pay my vow which I have vowed to the Lord, in Hebron. For your servant vowed a vow while I was living at Geshur in Aram, saying, ‘If the Lord shall indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord.’” The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron.”
    Hebron held a great deal of significance for Israel at this time. Hebron was the place where Abraham stopped and settled when God called him out of Ur of the Chaldeans. Hebron was where Abraham and Sarah were buried, as well as Isaac and Jacob. Hebron was where God made the covenant with Abraham. Hebron was where David was anointed king and where he ruled from until he moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem. For all of Israel’s history up to this point, Hebron was like the capital, and it certainly was the spiritual capital and center of Israel’s relationship with God.
    In these verses, when Absalom went to Hebron, he was using the religious history of Hebron to set himself up as the king of Israel. He was already the heir, was already acting in one of the roles of the king as judge, and so by going to the spiritual center of Israel, he was claiming that he was God’s chosen king of Israel. Here’s your second bulletin blank this morning, Absalom used RELIGION deceptively. He claimed he was God’s chosen king by manipulating the spiritual traditions of the people.
    So, recap: he had the heir to the throne murdered, he started taking on the roles of the king as judge, and he used religion deceptively to claim his kingship.
    He had two more acts of betrayal as well, 2 Samuel 15:10, “But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’”
    Absalom then sent spies into the tribes to start spreading the false decree that Absalom was king. He was next in line, started acting like the king, won the people’s hearts, manipulated their spirituality, so when people started gossiping that Absalom was the king, it would have been easy to believe.
    Then, to give his hostile takeover, his coup, more credibility, we’re told this, in 2 Samuel 15:12, “And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom.”
    Absalom sent for Ahithophel, David’s counselor, and Ahithophel sided with Absalom. He’s the heir to the throne, he’s already doing the job of king, he’s got the spirituality of the nation manipulated, he has people proclaiming his kingship, and he’s even got David’s counselor on his side. He betrayed his father David in just about any way you can imagine.
    He wasn’t alone though. I want us to look at this man Ahithophel as well. Ahithophel was already in a mindset of disliking David. Who is this Ahithophel and why was he already set against David, even though he was his counselor?
    2 Samuel 23 tells us that Ahithophel had a son named Eliam. Now, listen to 2 Samuel 11:3, “So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
    Uh oh. If Ahithophel’s son was Eliam, and Eliam’s daughter was Bathsheba, that would make Ahithophel Bathsheba’s grandfather. In addition to that, 2 Samuel 23 tells us that Ahithophel was also a relative of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband that David had murdered. It’s entirely within the realm of believability to think that maybe Ahithophel held a grudge against David, even though David had given him a position as a counselor, one who would give David advice. It’s easy to see why, given the opportunity, Ahithophel would turn against David.
    Your next bulletin blank is that Ahithophel was David’s COUNSELOR, as we’ve seen already. What that means is that when David needed advice about how to run the nation, Ahithophel was one of the men he consulted. We also need to understand that this means that Ahithophel knew a lot of things about David’s kingship that others, even his son Absalom, might not have known. He was in a prime position to betray David.
    Let’s look at 2 Samuel 15:31, “Now someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O Lord, I pray, make the counsel of Ahithophel foolishness.”
    Your next bulletin blank is CONSPIRED. Ahithophel conspired with Absalom. He didn’t just decide as Absalom was taking over that he was going to switch sides, he actively worked with Absalom to see David fall. As I said before, Ahithophel would have had knowledge that would have been very detrimental to David, and with that knowledge, he all but assured that Absalom would be successful in his coup. See, Absalom had a lot working in his favor for this coup, but Ahithophel’s close knowledge of King David and the inner-workings of the kingdom were the key to making this whole thing successful.
    David understood how serious this betrayal was; how serious it was that Ahithophel was conspiring with Absalom. When he heard of the conspiracy he prayed to the Lord that God would make Ahithophel’s counsel to Absalom foolishness, that it would be folly and unhelpful.
    Interestingly enough, and you probably know by now how much I love words and names and wordplay in the Bible, Ahithophel’s name means “brother of FOLLY”. And that’s your last bulletin blank today. His name means “brother of folly”. David prayed in this moment when he knew how bad things could really get for him, he prayed that God would make Ahithophel live up to his own name.
    David trusted Ahithophel. 2 Samuel 16:23 tells us that David considered Ahithophel’s advice as trustworthy as the Word of God, despite the fact that he had severely wronged Ahithophel’s family through adultery and murder. He also deeply trusted his son Absalom, despite Absalom’s obvious bent toward violence and the warning David had from the prophet Nathan that someone in his own house would betray him.
    It seems to me, that if David had kept a closer eye, chosen his advisors more carefully, addressed Absalom’s violent deeds, perhaps he could have avoided this whole mess.
    I want to say the same to us, church.
    I put a saying in your bulletins this morning that, “You become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.” Do you have close relationships with people that you would be proud of being like?
    For Christians this is an even more important concept. If we are meant to be like Christ, then we need to surround ourselves closely with people who are also becoming like Christ, because we become like the 5 people we spend the most time with. If those closest to you aren’t becoming like Christ, it will be that much harder for you to stay the course.
    That’s why we get New Testament encouragement from Paul like this, from 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”
    Bound, here, means that there is a closeness in that relationship. You trust that person, you confide in that person and tell them about your struggles and issues, you spend time with that person just enjoying each other’s company. That’s what “bound” here means.
    There’s no issue with being friends with unbelievers. We should be in the world enough to be able to be a witness to others to point them to Christ. You should be transparent with others, you should speak and act in a manner worthy of your calling. You should make disciples! But those that we are closest to should be Christians! Those that speak into our lives, those that encourage us and challenge us should be Christians! They should be people who urge us on to greater depths in our relationship with Christ.
    Surround yourself with people who will sharpen you when you need to be sharpened. Surround yourself with people who will speak the truth in love, even when it’s a hard truth. Surround yourself with people who will show you what it looks like to become the image of Christ. The last thing you want is someone speaking into your life who is a “brother of folly”.

1. Write down the names of your closest relationships. Do most of these people encourage you into a deeper walk with Christ? If not, are there other relationships with genuine Christ-followers you could develop into closer relationships? (Proverbs 27:17)

2. Who did Jesus spend most of his time with? What does that teach us about the importance of choosing Godly relationships?

3. How can you encourage and uplift your relationships this week? How can you urge your friends to walk deeper with Christ? How can you pray for these people this week? Reach out to them and see how you can be a Godly friend to them.

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