Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, “Ahithophel has advised Absalom and the elders of Israel to do such and such, but I have advised them to do so and so. Now send a message at once and tell David, ‘Do not spend the night at the fords in the wilderness; cross over without fail, or the king and all the people with him will be swallowed up.’ ” Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel. A female servant was to go and inform them, and they were to go and tell King David, for they could not risk being seen entering the city. But a young man saw them and told Absalom. So the two of them left at once and went to the house of a man in Bahurim. He had a well in his courtyard, and they climbed down into it. His wife took a covering and spread it out over the opening of the well and scattered grain over it. No one knew anything about it. When Absalom’s men came to the woman at the house, they asked, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?” The woman answered them, “They crossed over the brook.” The men searched but found no one, so they returned to Jerusalem. After they had gone, the two climbed out of the well and went to inform King David. They said to him, “Set out and cross the river at once; Ahithophel has advised such and such against you.” So David and all the people with him set out and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, no one was left who had not crossed the Jordan. When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb. – 2 Samuel 17:15-23
This is a somewhat complicated and confusing passage. Any time you have to resort to language like “do such and such” you know things are getting complex. This is the playing out of the plans within plans discussed in a previous post. In this passage crossing over the Jordan is mentioned numerous times, but I notice that God is not mentioned once. These crossings are chaotic and seemingly without direction from God. The Israelites are missing God, just like they missed the Messiah when Jesus showed up in Jerusalem.
Water comes in both in the Jordan River crossings and the well that David’s men hide in to escape Absalom’s men. David’s men climb into the well and in so doing probably contaminated the water in it for some time. I am struggling to discern the deeper meaning God has for me in this passage. It seems like David and Absalom are so distracted by their family dysfunction that they would not see God even if he showed up and made the Jordan stop flowing. Perhaps that is the main point. Distraction can cause us to miss God showing up.
Does this level of dysfunction and distraction still occur? What would this look like in a modern context? What activities are we engaged in that are similar? Perhaps we need look no further than “black Friday” at a shopping mall. I am not suggesting that shopping is completely analogous to the battle being described in this passage…although some scenes you see on the news are pretty ugly. What seems very similar is the focus on everything but God and a lack of a shared vision of what it would look like if God showed up. I would not be surprised if Jesus could walk unnoticed through a shopping mall, just like the Messiah walked unnoticed through the lives of many of the Jewish leaders.
Perhaps God does not show up in this passage, or shopping malls for that matter, because He was not invited. I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite movies growing up, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Richard Dreyfus plays a man who has a close encounter with an alien spaceship. As a result of his encounter he is implanted with a vision which he cannot get out of his head. After building a likeness of his vision in the middle of his kitchen he realizes it is in fact Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Many others have similar visions and are drawn to the same place. They share the same vision…they were invited. God invited the Israelites to cross over into the Promised Land, He invited the Jewish leaders to be born again, and He invites each one of us to follow Him.
The Israelites have lost their shared vision of who God is and what it would even look like for Him to show up. I think this can happen within our Christian communities as well. We can become so distracted by “doing” that we don’t take time to remember God or look for Him to show up. As a consequence He begins to show up less and less — not because He is less present, but because we are not looking closely enough…or perhaps He was simply not invited.
Prayer: God help us to develop a shared vision of who You are so we recognize You when You show up.