In 2 Samuel, beginning in chapter 13, we are introduced to a tragic sequence of events in King David’s life. God’s fourfold judgment for his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah, is about to come upon him (2 Samuel:12:1-4). David’s son, Amnon, forces himself upon one of his sisters, Tamar, committing incest. David’s favorite son, Absalom, takes vengeance and has Amnon killed, then flees from David’s wrath.
Joab craftily engineers Absalom’s return to Jerusalem, and the latter proceeds to turn the hearts of the people of Israel away from David. That accomplished, Absalom “sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron” (2 Samuel:15:10). This was the city where David had first been crowned king (2 Samuel:5:1-5).
Upon learning that Israel has rejected him in favor of Absalom, David leaves his throne to the usurper and flees from Jerusalem with his 600 mighty men and many servants (2 Samuel:15:13-22). In allegiance to David, the priests Zadok and Abiathar, together with the Levites bearing the ark of the covenant, seek to join the procession fleeing Jerusalem.
David, however, demonstrates again why God said, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts:13:22). He tells the priests, “Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again...but if [not]...let him do to me as seemeth good unto him” (2 Samuel:15:25-26). David then arranges for Ahimaaz the son of Zadok and Jonathan the son of Abiathar to act as spies and bring vital information to him (15:27-29).
David is told that Ahithophel is part of Absalom’s conspiracy. Known for his wisdom, this man had been David’s chief advisor and was probably the most brilliant strategist the world has ever seen: “And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom” (16:23). David instantly offers a prayer that goes to the heart of the matter. It is a model for us today of insight, brevity, and effectiveness: “O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (2 Samuel:15:31).
Almost immediately, Hushai the Archite, loyal friend and longtime counselor, appears “with his coat rent, and earth upon his head” (v. 32). David recognizes in him the answer to his prayer: not a miracle but a means. Often we ask God to do for us what we could have a part in doing for ourselves if we would use what He provides! David tells Hushai, “...if thou return to the city, and say unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O king...then mayest thou for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel” (vv. 33,34). And so it would be.
Ahithophel urges Absalom, “Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night: and I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed...and I will smite the king only” (17:1,2). Ahithophel’s counsel was the only possibility. But playing on the reputation of David and his men as invincible warriors, Hushai cautions, “The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time...thou knowest thy father and his men [are] mighty men...chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps...thy father is a man of war, and will not lodge with the people....Behold, he is hid now...[W]hen some...be overthrown...whosoever heareth it will say, There is a slaughter among the people that follow Absalom. And he...whose heart is...of a lion, shall utterly melt: for all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and they which be with him are valiant men. Therefore I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee...as the sand that is by the sea for multitude...that thou go to battle in thine own person. So shall we come upon him...as the dew falleth on the ground: and of him and of all the men that are with him there shall not be left so much as one” (17:7-12).
Absalom and his men are attracted by the thought of having hundreds of thousands united to attack David’s 600 men, and they accept the counsel of Hushai that “the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel” (v. 14). The latter knows that if David and his men have time to get some food and rest, all the men of Israel will not be sufficient to defeat them.
Ahithophel is a tragic figure—a master strategist whose amazing career has been driven, not by love for the God of Israel and loyalty to David whom He has chosen to be king, but by his love for outwitting Israel’s enemies and being admired as the brains behind the phenomenal success that God has given to David. The fact that the despised shepherd boy David defeated Goliath and the Philistines simply by faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has never gripped the soul of Ahithophel. For him, there are no more challenges in serving David after Israel’s enemies have all been defeated—whereas guiding Absalom’s revolt will bring him out of virtual retirement and into action again.
Ahithophel apparently sees in Absalom’s rebellion the opportunity for new demands upon his genius. Here is an exciting task worthy of his remarkable talents. But now his wise counsel has been rejected. Knowing exactly what the outcome will be, he doesn’t hesitate a moment: “And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass...gat him home...put his household in order, and hanged himself...” (17:23).
David, too, knows that all Israel is no match for his 600 incredible warriors, one of whom “lift up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time” (2 Sam:23:8); another “smote the Philistines until...his hand clave unto the sword:...and the people returned after him only to spoil” (23:10); still another slays 300 at one time (23:18). David pleads with his invincible army, “Deal gently for my sake with...Absalom” (18:5). And so it happens precisely as Ahithophel, Hushai, and David have foreseen: under Absalom’s leadership, Israel suffers a stunning defeat.
In spite of David’s passionate plea, Joab kills Absalom in order to remove any further challenge to David. Israel is ashamed of her disloyalty to her rightful king but doesn’t know what to do. Perhaps recognizing God’s judgment upon his own sin, David weeps inconsolably in seclusion for Absalom: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel:18:33).
Joab, who for all his perversity is a man of keen insight, rebukes David: “Joab... said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants...for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died... then it had pleased thee...if thou go not forth [to the people], there will not tarry one with thee this night....Then the king arose, and sat in the gate....And all the people came before the king: for Israel had fled every man to his tent” (2 Samuel:19:1-8).
The people remember that David, after all, has delivered them from the Philistines and other enemies and has ruled them well. With Absalom dead, the word spreads quickly, “Now therefore why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?” (v. 10).
Even though Absalom has been defeated, David will not go back to his throne in Jerusalem until the hearts of the people have changed toward him and they welcome his return. But David is not idle. He sends Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, to the elders of Judah to say unto them, “Ye are my brethren...my bones and my flesh: wherefore then are ye the last to bring back the king?” (19:11,12).
This appeal “bowed the heart of all the men of Judah, even as the heart of one man; so that they sent this word unto the king, Return thou, and all thy servants.” Only then “the king returned, and came to Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king...” (19:9-15).
Surely this story has prophetic implications for the last days in which we find ourselves. In spite of those who claim that God is finished with Israel and that the church is the “new Israel,” scores of prophecies foretell a full and final restoration of Israel in her land, with the Messiah ruling over her forever on David’s throne. This restoration must be yet future because nothing that comes close to these prophetic promises has ever occurred in Israel’s history (we will add italics to highlight the permanence of these promises as further evidence that the fulfillment is yet future):
“He that scattered Israel will gather him...they shall come and sing in the height of Zion...they shall not sorrow any more at all (Jeremiah:31:10-12)....The city [Jerusalem] shall be built to the LORD....It shall not be plucked up nor thrown down any more for ever (vv. 38,40)....As a shepherd seeketh out his flock...so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered....And gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land,...And I will set up one shepherd over them,...even my servant David;...he shall be their shepherd....And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen,...they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid (Ezekiel:34:12,13,23,28). And I will...do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD....Neither shalt thou bear the reproach of the people any more...(Ezekiel:36:11,15). A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you:...This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden (vv. 26,35). I the LORD [will] build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it and I will do it...( v. 36). And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt;...they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever....My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore (37:24-28). So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more....[T]he house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward....Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD (39:7,22,29).”
David is one of the clearest Old Testament types of Christ. Therefore, we can see prophetic implications concerning the Second Coming of Christ in the incident from 2 Samuel cited above. This fact becomes even clearer in the passage from Ezekiel 37. That the promised Messiah is referred to as David reflects the fact that He is the ultimate “son of David” who will reign upon David’s throne in Jerusalem over restored Israel and the world forever.
Zechariah gives further details in enlarging upon these prophecies: “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle;...Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations,...And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem....My God shall come, and all the saints with thee....And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced...” (Zechariah:14:1-5; 12:10a).
Clearly God is speaking—but what could He mean that He has been pierced by Israel? And why does He seem to refer to another when He goes on to say, “...and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son...” (12:10b)? They pierced “me,” says God, but they will mourn for “him.” Do not the words of Christ explain this when He says, “I and my Father are one” (John:10:30)?
Israel’s mourning can only be in remorse for having “pierced” her God. But how is that possible? Only if God himself had become a man through a virgin birth and had been rejected and crucified as Isaiah foretold: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel [God with us]” (Isaiah:7:14); “For unto us a child is born,...a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder [i.e., He is the Messiah who will reign]: and his name shall be called...The mighty God, The everlasting Father...” (9:6); “He is despised and rejected...wounded for our transgressions...bruised for our iniquities...and with his stripes we are healed”
(53:3-5). Furthermore, only on the basis of the Messiah, who is God himself, paying the penalty for our sins could Zechariah go on to say that, as a result of Israel’s recognition and mourning, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah:13:1).
Surely Israel stands today in relation to the coming “David” where she stood in relation to the original King David after his rejection. Upon being rejected, Jesus said, “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew:23:39). That will indeed happen in the midst of Armageddon as Israel, attacked by the armies of the entire world under Antichrist, faces annihilation and cries out in desperation for her Messiah. He comes to rescue her and they see that He is a man who was pierced to the death and is risen again, the very Jesus they have despised and rejected, as their own prophet Isaiah foretold so clearly (Isaiah 53).
Could we also find application for the church? Christ has promised to come and take us to His Father’s house of many mansions (John:14:2-3). Could it be that, as David waited for Israel to invite him back, Christ will return only when His bride earnestly calls upon Him to do so? The Absaloms of this world have captured the hearts of Christians everywhere. We are in the midst of apostasy. The last thing many Christians want is the Rapture because it would interfere with their earthly plans.
Christ foretold that “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (Matthew:25:5-6). Is it not time for that cry to resound throughout the church? Could this be why Revelation ends, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come....Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation:22:17,20)? When will the church “speak a word for bringing back the king”? Let us who “love his appearing” (2 Timothy:4:8) sound the midnight cry: “Behold the bridegroom cometh! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” And let us urge many others to join us in this plea to our Savior. TBC
(originally published in April 2002)