I absolutely love reading about the amazing adventures of King David in the Old Testament. He was a mighty warrior, a wise king, a man after God’s heart––and a sinner. And like us all, he suffered the consequences––heart broken to see how his sin destroyed relationships and devastated the lives of those closest to him.
There was one relationship David had that always confounded me. I confess, when I read the story of Ahithophel––David’s friend, counselor, and, ultimately, his traitor––I would just gloss over it. It never made sense. The verses gave no apparent reason for Ahithophel’s change of heart against David. Then, I learned the intriguing secret behind his festering need to exact revenge.
You may remember, King David’s son Absolom rebels and seeks to dethrone his father and become king. When David realizes what is happening, he is heartbroken and turns to the person he believes to be his most devout friend and advisor, Ahithophel. Shockingly, Ahithophel joins Absolom in his rebellion! David hears the news of the betrayal fleeing from Jerusalem and he is devastated.
Ahithophel’s hidden rage against David bubbles up when he advises Absolom to publicly sleep with the King’s concubines. It now escalated to the vengeful public shaming of David––there is no going back for the conspirators.
But the rebellion fails. Absolom is killed while hanging in a tree by his hair and Ahithophel commits suicide. But the question remains as to why Ahithophel suddenly decided to totally betray and humiliate his friend and king? Was Ahithophel seeking influence or power?
Ahithophel had absolutely no ambition for battle or civil war. His motive was fueled by a deep and personal animosity that had built up over time. This level of poison in relationships almost always stems from painful family tragedies. This case was no different. You see, Ahithophel’s son was one of David’s great warriors––a star in many of David’s great battles. But more than that, Ahithophel had a beautiful granddaughter by that son. Her name was Bathsheba––the very same Bathsheba that David took from her husband Uriah and, then after learning that Bathsheba was pregnant, had killed.
David had dishonored Ahithophel’s family–– shamed his granddaughter and murdered her husband. Behind the curtain of friendship and trust was a troubled man unable to forgive. This broken relationship was a consequence of David’s sin. Ahithophel’s revenge sadly turned into heartache and death.
There is no way to condone David’s behavior––he was wrong. But the hurt and shame Ahithophel felt went unchecked and destroyed him. He could not forgive David.
Christ often spoke of the need for us to forgive. He understood the destructive power of an unforgiving heart and made a way for us as sinners to be reconciled with the Father by forgiving us. Ephesians 4:31-32 reads: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Forgiveness! There is no healing, there is no reconciliation, and there is no freedom without forgiveness. Individuals and families that are experiencing betrayal, hurt, and brokenness can only begin their journey to peace when they begin their quest for forgiveness.
May you know forgiveness and may you forgive when someone hurts you. Pray for us as we minister to the hurting children, families, and residents at Baptist Children’s Homes. I pray that we will all model the kindness and forgiveness of Jesus and live out the Good News to a hurting world.
Article by Keith Henry, BCH Chief Operating Officer