But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. And all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went. And it was told David, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O Lord, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”
While David was coming to the summit, where God was worshiped, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat torn and dirt on his head. David said to him, “If you go on with me, you will be a burden to me. But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father’s servant in time past, so now I will be your servant,’ then you will defeat for me the counsel of Ahithophel. Are not Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? So whatever you hear from the king’s house, tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. Behold, their two sons are with them there, Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son, and Jonathan, Abiathar’s son, and by them you shall send to me everything you hear.” So Hushai, David’s friend, came into the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem. – 2 Samuel 15:13-37 ESV
As David made his way out of the city of David, he did so in a state of mourning. He headed east toward the Mount of Olives, barefoot and with his head covered. He led a sizeable retinue of household servants, personal body guards, members of his royal administration, and armed soldiers. It is interesting to contrast this scene with the one in which David led the way as the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the gates of Jerusalem. At that point, David had been headed in the opposite direction and was in a significantly different mood. He was dancing and leaping, joyfully leading the procession that contained the Ark of God. Now, years later, the Ark was in Jerusalem, but David was on his way out. There was no music, no dancing, and no joy on this occasion. David was on his way out, abandoning his capital and abdicating his throne to his son, Absalom. David, and all those with him, were weeping as they went. And then, to make matters even worse, David received the disappointing news that one of his own counselors, Ahithophel, had chosen to remain behind and serve Absalom. Not only that, Ahithophel is described as a co-conspirator with Absalom. He was not just switching sides at the end, he had played a role in the entire enterprise, providing Absalom with counsel and advice along the way.
David was down, but not out. He was in mourning, but he was not giving up. He was setting up his own network of spies to provide him with inside information regarding Absalom’s plans. He had evidently prearranged with Abiathar and Zadok, the priests, to use their sons as messengers, providing David with much-needed intel about all that went on in the kingdom while he was in exile. As bleak and bad as things looked, David still had friends. There were still those who were willing to stand beside him at one of the darkest moments in his life. And while David’s actions and demeanor portray a man who has all but given up, it would appear that he is just being realistic. He knows that, for the time being, he has lost his kingdom to his son. He does not know why. He is not yet sure if this is a permanent situation or simply another detour in God’s plan for his life. Rather than risk a pitched battle with Absalom and subject the city of Jerusalem to destruction and its inhabitants to death, David had left of his own free will. He was sad, but still expectant. He was in mourning, but remained hopeful. He put in place measures that would provide him with vital intelligence and allow him to influence the actions of Absalom from the inside.
The days ahead were going to be difficult for David and, at times, very dark. The worst had not yet come. There was going to be more devastating news and difficult circumstances in David’s future. He would be ridiculed, reviled, and rejected as king. He would find himself living in exile from his own kingdom. And yet, in the back of his mind, he would always have to wrestle with the seeming incongruity of his anointing by God to be king and the lightning-fast loss of his kingship. What was God doing? Why was all of this happening? Was it because of his sins? Was it the punishment of God for all he had done concerning Bathsheba and Uriah?
There will be days in the life of every believer that seem to make no sense. We will each find ourselves battling the dark days of the soul that make us question what we have done to offend God. And sometimes, God is slow in giving us answers to our questions or explanations to the seemingly confusing events surrounding our lives. At times, we will find ourselves suffering the ramifications of our own poor decision making. Other times, the consequences of past sins will catch up with us, leaving us confused and conflicted as to what God is doing and why. The days ahead for David were going to be dark and difficult. He would have more questions than answers. And all along the way he would be tempted to either give up in despair or lash out in anger. He would find himself struggling to balance waiting on God with working things out on his own. Should he fight or flee? Should he give up or faithfully wait for God to show up? It is in the trials of life that we find our faith in God tested and our understanding of who He really is exposed as flawed and one-dimensional. David’s circumstances had changed dramatically, but God had not. David’s power had diminished significantly, but not God’s. David was no longer on his throne, but God was. From David’s perspective, it would have been easy to see all as bleak, but God had a different view on things, and He was not yet done with David. Absalom loomed large in David’s life, but he was insignificant to God. Our darkest days can provide the perfect backdrop for the light of God’s goodness, love, power and deliverance to shine.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.