Evangelist Billy Graham once commented, “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” It is a tragedy when people achieve a level of success and acclaim that their character is not equipped to handle.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10
The author of 2 Samuel has given us a vivid picture of Absalom’s character. He was crafty, vengeful, and prideful. He enjoyed sitting at the city gate and parading himself in front of the crowds (2 Sam. 15:1–6). He reveled in his “handsome appearance” by publicly getting his hair cut and weighed, a practice that sounds odd to us today (14:25–26).
Now that Absalom had come to power, his pride allowed him to be manipulated by others. David had sent Hushai to infiltrate his leadership and subvert his plans. Hushai met Absalom and declared, “Long live the king!” (16:16). Notice that he does not say the name of the king. When Absalom questioned his loyalty, he stated, “No, the one chosen by the LORD, by these people, and by the men of Israel—his I will be” (v. 18). Hushai had not said he would be loyal to Absalom, but Absalom took it that way.
When Absalom sought advice regarding his first move as king, Ahithophel gave good pragmatic recommendations. First, he was to take his father’s concubines as his own wives. This would affirm that there was no chance of reconciliation between father and son. Second, he should allow the army to pursue David and capture him. David’s death could save the nation from a protracted civil war.
Hushai countered this advice by reminding everyone what a skilled fighter David was. He urged patience so Absalom could gather a large army. Absalom accepted this flattering advice, which bought David much needed time.
When you need advice, where do you go? Who do you listen to? Proverbs 9:10 points out to the only source of truth: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”
Nurture in us a love of the truth to protect us from manipulative flattery. Cause us to seek truth, even when it is difficult or painful to face. Lovers of God must be lovers of truth.