Timothy Ong (Anew CG)| Easter 2018
There's an interesting passage that I came across this week. It's from 2 Samuel 16-17, where (to cut a long story short) King David's son Absalom stages a revolt against him, and occupies Jerusalem with the help of some of David's former associates. One of them is a man named Ahithophel, a guy so wise that "the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absolom". High praise indeed, considering that David was a pretty wise king on his own merit. David's really scared that Absolom will become successful with the counsel of Ahithophel, and hatches his own plot to undermine him by sending a spy, Hushai, posing as a defector, who seeks to cast doubt on Ahithophel's advice.
Ahithophel advises Absolom on a bunch of things, and volunteers to lead an army to attack David. But Hushai gives his own argument that David is an experienced warrior, so Absolom should wait to amass more troops before attacking. Eventually Hushai sways Absolom, buying David more time to escape.
What struck me is what happens to Ahithophel after. "When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city, He set his house in order and hanged himself, and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father." (2 Samuel 17:23). The man whose counsel was better than King David, who spoke with the wisdom almost of God himself, killed himself just because Absolom didn't take his advice. Why?
The dishonour of rejection was too great for him. His pride was built on the wisdom of his advice, and when that was not good enough for others, he had nothing left to cling to. In the same way for us, there is a need to distinguish between our intelligence, even wisdom, and our notion of self worth. We can be intelligent, even make wise choices, but that does not define who we are. We are not any better before God just because we choose to do the right thing more
of the time. All obedience is not intrinsically valuable, but only because God gives us grace to live right lives for him in response to the grace He has first shown us.
From one viewpoint, this can be disheartening. After all, we'd all like to think of ourselves as better than others in one way or another, and the temptation to compare based on intelligence/moral character is often strong. But from another viewpoint, we gain far more. Our worth is not tied to our achievements, or bad decisions we make. Every act of procrastination, every bad decision, doesn't make us less of God's children. We are fully loved, regardless of what we do. And that is the best assurance of all.