It's five am and I should be baking bread, but instead I've been distracted by some revelation I had last night.
I'd been reading about King David recently and something has been puzzling me. Why would his most trusted friend and advisor, who has given him good counsel for year even before he was king, turn traitor the minute his son brings a rebellion against him? The bible gives no motive for Ahithophel's betrayal and it seems so strange.
In fact, even more strange is the fact that Ahithophel tells Absalom (David's son) that he should sleep with David's concubines on the palace roof, so that all of Israel will see it 2 Sam 16:20. What on earth could have possessed him to advise such a thing?
In the Arab world there is a saying that goes like this:
If a man takes revenge before forty years have passed, he has been too hasty.
I believe this phrase holds the key to this passage.
I'm indebted to Grant R Jeffrey's book 'The Signature of God' for helping me to unlock this passage. You see Ahithophel was a very close friend to David, he and his Son Eliam - who was part of David's bodyguard, along with Uriah the Hittite. Eliam was also Bathsheba's father, making Ahithophel her grandfather.
That fateful day when David spied Bathsheba bathing from the roof of his palace, he wasn't overcome with love at first sight; he knew Bathsheba well. The fact that she was living so close to the palace was probably in honour of, her husband, Uriah's service. When David committed adultery with her and murdered her husband, all Israel would have known that the baby she carried was his. Ahithophel's granddaughter had been shamed, and his grandson (by marriage) murdered; but to speak against the king was death.
So Ahithophel kept silent, for many, many years - until the opportunity arose. Not only was he able to counsel a rebellion against the King, he ensured that the kings women were humiliated in the same way that his grand daughter had been; that all Israel knew she had been defiled by another man.
When David had been confronted on his sin by Nathan, he had been truly remorseful and repented. Nathan warns that, because of David's sin, the new baby boy will die; but when he did, David got up, cleaned up and said 'While the baby was still living, I cried and refused to eat because I thought, ‘Who knows? Maybe the LORD will feel sorry for me and let the baby live. But now the baby is dead, so why should I refuse to eat? Can I bring the baby back to life? No. Some day I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.' 2 Samuel 12:22
He presumably thought that with the baby dead, it was over, God had forgiven him. So had God forgiven him?
Absolutely yes. I can say with 100% certainty that his sin with Bathsheba will not be held against him on judgement day, but the effects of sin are like the ripples after a stone has been skipped over a lake. The stone may be gone, but there is no way to make that waters surface still again.
David's sin had consequences, not only in his life but in the lives of others. Ahithophel must have been consumed with bitterness for a long time to betray his friend and king in such a way.
I've heard people preach before on 'cheap grace' - the idea that some christian's believe that they can do what they like and repent of it later. That it's of no consequence to God if you say sorry. While it is true that you won't be judged for your sin if you plead the blood of Jesus, rarely does God remove the physical and emotional consequences of sin in our lives, or of those around us. To say that God doesn't care what we do as long as we repent would be incredibly ignorant. The effects and consequences of sin are found all over this world where people are suffering in their millions. I believe God suffers with them.
To forgive someone doesn't mean it stops hurting, for us or God. His forgiveness is absolute, but your sin still make Him suffer along with his people.