2 Samuel 16:15-17:14 – What To Do When You Don’t Know What to Do? Proverbs 3:6 It!

Posted: July 15, 2018 in 10-2 Samuel

2 Samuel 16:15-17:14
Ahithaphel & Hushai Advise Absalom

Sometimes, when we have to make a decision, we may get differing advice from people that we trust and we may even get differing advice from the same person at different times. Sometimes, no matter what you do there will be someone who offers opposite alternatives no matter what you bring forward. This is so often true not just in leadership but also just in our personal lives. How do you know what advice to follow?

As a leader or when making decisions in our personal lives, it can be difficult to determine what is the best thing to do. It can be maddening at times because every suggestion for what to do has its drawbacks as well as its positives. As a leader or just personally, you want to make decisions that provides no downside. We want to make decisions where everyone is on board and where there are no negative impacts. However, that is often impossible. In fact, it is often rare that leadership or personal decisions have no downside. Virtually every decision we make will leave someone angry or disappointed. Many times we can become paralyzed by the fear of disappointing others. Making decisions requires choices and someone is going to lose on most decisions we make. Often, we get paralyzed by the choice between advice alternatives.

Advice can be conflicting at times, too, even from the same person. What if someone gives you advice one way one day and then seemingly opposite advice a couple of hours, days, or weeks later? That can be as paralyzing as receiving conflicting advise before you take any action. Such situations can make you start second-guessing yourself and keep you from moving forward with you plans. Then, to boot, there are people who will inevitably say B anytime you say A. You know the type. They always hear what you have to say and then list every reason why want you have decided to do, won’t work. We see this in American politics right now more so than at any other time in history. We all have had experiences with our magnetic polar opposite whether it be in your personal life or your professional life. It can be paralyzing to the point that you are scared to put an idea forward for fear of your magnetic polar opposite.

It can all be mindboggling as a leader or just as a person trying to make the right choice in your personal life. What to do? When to do it? Minimizing discord over your decision. Realizing that someone is not going to be happy with any decision you make. The second-guessing by yourself and others. Advice! Whose to take? What are going to do? We all face this dilemma in life in some shape or form. It is easy to give advice but it harder to actually be the one making a decision.

That idea, that struggle is what I thought of today as I read through 2 Samuel 16:15-17:14 – how we have make decisions sometimes with conflicting sets of advice and how we resolve that in our minds. That idea is a valid struggle for us all at the very least in our personal lives but it is also something that leaders have to deal with when it comes decision-making in organizations. In our personal lives, if we cannot learn to navigate this issue, we can have a rough personal life. In our leadership lives, if we cannot learn to navigate this issue well, we will be hampered in our quest to be a good leader. Let’s read the passage, now, and see how Absalom handled the conflicting sets of advice that he received:

15 Meanwhile, Absalom and all the army of Israel arrived at Jerusalem, accompanied by Ahithophel. 16 When David’s friend Hushai the Arkite arrived, he went immediately to see Absalom. “Long live the king!” he exclaimed. “Long live the king!”

17 “Is this the way you treat your friend David?” Absalom asked him. “Why aren’t you with him?”

18 “I’m here because I belong to the man who is chosen by the Lord and by all the men of Israel,” Hushai replied. 19 “And anyway, why shouldn’t I serve you? Just as I was your father’s adviser, now I will be your adviser!”

20 Then Absalom turned to Ahithophel and asked him, “What should I do next?”

21 Ahithophel told him, “Go and sleep with your father’s concubines, for he has left them here to look after the palace. Then all Israel will know that you have insulted your father beyond hope of reconciliation, and they will throw their support to you.” 22 So they set up a tent on the palace roof where everyone could see it, and Absalom went in and had sex with his father’s concubines.

23 Absalom followed Ahithophel’s advice, just as David had done. For every word Ahithophel spoke seemed as wise as though it had come directly from the mouth of God.

Chapter 17
1 Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, “Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. 2 I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, 3 and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only one man’s life that you seek.[a] Then you will be at peace with all the people.” 4 This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.
Hushai Counters Ahithophel’s Advice

5 But then Absalom said, “Bring in Hushai the Arkite. Let’s see what he thinks about this.” 6 When Hushai arrived, Absalom told him what Ahithophel had said. Then he asked, “What is your opinion? Should we follow Ahithophel’s advice? If not, what do you suggest?”

7 “Well,” Hushai replied to Absalom, “this time Ahithophel has made a mistake. 8 You know your father and his men; they are mighty warriors. Right now they are as enraged as a mother bear who has been robbed of her cubs. And remember that your father is an experienced man of war. He won’t be spending the night among the troops. 9 He has probably already hidden in some pit or cave. And when he comes out and attacks and a few of your men fall, there will be panic among your troops, and the word will spread that Absalom’s men are being slaughtered. 10 Then even the bravest soldiers, though they have the heart of a lion, will be paralyzed with fear. For all Israel knows what a mighty warrior your father is and how courageous his men are.

11 “I recommend that you mobilize the entire army of Israel, bringing them from as far away as Dan in the north and Beersheba in the south. That way you will have an army as numerous as the sand on the seashore. And I advise that you personally lead the troops. 12 When we find David, we’ll fall on him like dew that falls on the ground. Then neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. 13 And if David were to escape into some town, you will have all Israel there at your command. Then we can take ropes and drag the walls of the town into the nearest valley until every stone is torn down.”

14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “Hushai’s advice is better than Ahithophel’s.” For the Lord had determined to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, which really was the better plan, so that he could bring disaster on Absalom!

In this passage, we see that Ahithophel was an advisor to Absalom. Most rulers had advisers to help make decisions about government affairs and political matters. But God made Ahithophel’s advice seem foolish, just as David had prayed in 2 Samuel 15:31. Hushai appealed to Absalom through flattery and Absalom’s vanity became his own trap. Hushai predicted great glory for Absalom if he personally led the entire army against David. When we are taking advise from others, we will often get conflicting advice and that’s the tough part – which advice do I follow?

How do we reconcile conflicting advice? Well, there is no reference here as to Absalom going to the Lord in prayer over this conflicting advice. All we see is him making the choice that was potentially going to give himself the greater glory. That seems to be the lesson of this passage. Absalom was doomed to failure because of his vanity. His vanity was his weakness. This Hushai knew. He knew that he could divert Absalom away from the best advice (the advice given him by Ahithophel). Hushai knew if he got Absalom to think about what would give him more fame and notoriety, that Absalom would be like a fish going after a baited hook. Absalom did not have the faith of his father. Absalom had life handed to him on a silver platter and he was so good looking that he pretty much always got whatever he wanted. He was prideful and self-centered. He was jealous of his father’s fame and wanted to be more famous than his father without paying the years of sacrifice and hard work that had marked David’s ascendancy to the throne. So, the advice that gave him the potential for the greatest glory was the candy in the candy store window for him. No mention here of prayer. No mention of spending time alone with the Lord.

That’s the thing that we must do when we are presented conflicting advice for our personal lives or in any role of leadership – seek the Lord. We must study Scripture and compare the spirit of what we have read on the subject in Scripture to what advice we have been given. We must then pray for the Lord to enlighten us as to what to do. Any decision we make no matter how large or how small should be bathed in Bible study and prayer. Sure, there are decisions where we must make snap judgments about the advice we have received, but if we study Scripture enough and pray enough on a regular basis that we should begin to know God’s heart. We should begin to know what is consistent with God’s character and what is not. But no decision has to be made so quickly that a quick prayer for Holy Spirit guidance cannot be offered up.

Absalom’s decision here, as we shall see in the coming chapters of 2 Samuel, will lead to his demise. He followed the wrong advice because he was a prideful man who was not in relationship with God. Absalom shows us what not to do. People will give us advice that’s all over the board. Some advice is contrasting. Some advice contradicts. Some advice serves the advice giver’s interests more than yours. Some advice given is not well thought out. How do we make sense of it all? Seek the Lord.

Proverbs 3:6 (NLT) gives us the best advice on advice…”Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Amen and Amen.

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