July 8, 2023
“Hushai continued, ‘You know your father and his men. They are warriors and are desperate like a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Your father is an experienced soldier...’”
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“Hushai continued, ‘You know your father and his men. They are warriors and are desperate like a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Your father is an experienced soldier who won’t spend the night with his people. He’s probably already hiding in one of the caves or some other place. If some of our troops fall first, someone is sure to hear and say, ‘There’s been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’ Then, even a brave man with the heart of a lion will melt because all Israel knows your father and the valiant men with him are warriors. Instead, I advise that all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba – as numerous as the sand by the sea – be gathered to you so that you personally go into battle.’” 2 Samuel 17:8-11 (HCSB)
At his core, David was more shepherd than warrior. In contrast, Absalom wanted to be considered a warrior without being a shepherd. Absalom wanted the “image” of shepherding. Remember how he stood at the gate and told the people he should be judging their cases because David was too busy for them? But there was never any evidence he judged a single case. In modern political terms, Absalom ran on the “shepherd” ticket, but his true heart was to be considered mighty.
Hushai knew Absalom’s heart, so he negotiated toward Absalom’s ego. Notice how Hushai stresses David the “warrior.” He tells Absalom:
“Your father is an experienced soldier who won’t spend the night with his people. He’s probably already hiding in one of the caves, or some other place.” 2 Samuel 17:8b-9a (HCSB)
The fact is that David, being a good shepherd, was right there with the “sheep” who had followed him. Absalom, undoubtedly, learned a lot from his father about warfare, but he misjudged his dad’s heart. Absalom wanted to be king but didn’t want to look after his “flock.” It reminds me of Jesus’ words:
“I assure you: Anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the door but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize the voice of a stranger.” John 10:1-6 (HCSB)
In chapter 15, David, being the “Shepherd of Israel,” stood by and watched all his “sheep” walk by. He even stopped a few and questioned them to see if they were truly “his.” Hushai knew David’s heart, so he knew exactly where David would be. That is what made his counsel so brilliant. He played Absalom’s prideful ignorance against him.
Lest we idolize Hushai’s heroism, we must recognize Hushai had no idea whether Absalom would heed his counsel. It is safe to say Hushai was led by God’s Spirit, so the praise for David’s rescue lies in God’s doing. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future. Our responsibility, then, is simply to trust His leading.