The False Messenger

Whenever relating the truth as it is in Jesus, we must look to the Bible—God’s Holy Word—for the truth in principle, and for the provided illustrations that give the correct rendering of meaning. In some cases, the illustration furnished in Scriptures reveals the failings of those who do not live according to the principles of truth.

Ahimaaz is such an example, provided that we can avoid his particular sin that brought dishonor to himself.  What was this sin?  Bearing an incomplete message because of fear.

His career as a messenger started out with all the intrigue of a national crisis—involving rebellion against God’s anointed king.  Absalom’s revolt attempted to remove his father from the throne for the sin of omission.  David had chosen the path of least resistance regarding the rape of his daughter Tamar, Absalom’s sister, by her half-brother Amnon. In the line of succession, Amnon held preeminence by reason of the birth order.  And by failing to do the justice required by the law in such instances, David proved exactly what would happen when the law is ignored as an evidence of misguided, unconditional love. (KJV, 2 Samuel 13:1-22.)

Though David was very angry at what Amnon had done, he did not provide the necessary justice, thereby sinning against his daughter and bringing dishonor to God.

“The shameful crime of Amnon, the first-born, was permitted by David to pass unpunished and unrebuked. The law pronounced death upon the adulterer, and the unnatural crime of Amnon made him doubly guilty. But David, self-condemned for his own sin, failed to bring the offender to justice. For two full years Absalom, the natural protector of the sister so foully wronged, concealed his purpose of revenge, but only to strike more surely at the last. At a feast of the king’s sons the drunken, incestuous Amnon was slain by his brother’s command….
“Like other sons of David, Amnon had been left to selfish indulgence. He had sought to gratify every thought of his heart, regardless of the requirements of God. Notwithstanding his great sin, God had borne long with him. For two years he had been granted opportunity for repentance; but he continued in sin, and with his guilt upon him, he was cut down by death, to await the awful tribunal of the judgment.
“David had neglected the duty of punishing the crime of Amnon, and because of the unfaithfulness of the king and father and the impenitence of the son, the Lord permitted events to take their natural course, and did not restrain Absalom.  When parents or rulers neglect the duty of punishing iniquity, God Himself will take the case in hand.  His restraining power will be in a measure removed from the agencies of evil, so that a train of circumstances will arise which will punish sin with sin” (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 727, 728).

The influence of the king’s weak approach to justice in the case of Amnon & Tamar appears to have affected the execution of justice in other matters as well.  The demeanor of subordinates in roles of authority imitated the king’s apparent attitude, resulting in negligence and delay.  The dissatisfaction of those awaiting justice fed the disaffection of the handsome prince, who skillfully took advantage of the resulting bitterness.  Gaining the artful talent of Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather, Absalom appeared invincible in the growing rebellion against the throne.

With the event of Absalom’s declared monarchy at Hebron, the alarm of rebellion awakened David from the depression imposed by the guilt of his own sin.  Arrangements were quickly made for a rapid, orderly departure from Jerusalem, for David didn’t wish to make the capitol suffer the carnage and bloodshed of a battleground.  Ten of his chosen concubines would maintain the palace in his absence. The ark was ordered returned to the city when Abiathar and Zadok tried to leave with David.  It was at this moment in history that Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, received his call to be a messenger.  The priests were to observe the movements of the rebels.  News of their plans would then be communicated to David via the sons, Jonathan and Ahimaaz.

The rebels didn’t take long to enter and gain control of Jerusalem.  Ahithophel encouraged Absalom to do overtly what David had done covertly, and what Amnon had done cunningly. The ten concubines became the means by which Absalom irreversibly alienated himself from father and God.  The unnatural heathen ritual made reconciliation impossible as he claimed his father’s authority and throne.  Still, Absalom didn’t fulfill all of Ahithophel’s advice. He preferred Hushai’s counsel to personally lead an army of all Israel against his father.

Through the priests, Jonathan and Ahimaaz received their first honor in carrying the message to David to make haste across the Jordan. This the weary, sorrowful king did.  Without delay, and throughout the night, the refugees bravely made the dangerous crossing.  They found rest and support from those who lived in Mahanaim, the former capitol of Ishbosheth after Saul had died.

The thrill of being suspected and pursued by Absalom’s agents, the heart pounding drama while being concealed in a cistern, must have affected both young men as they successfully delivered their entire warning to David.  But apparently with Ahimaaz there came future temptation for self-ambition and glory.

The Battle

When the day of battle arrived, Ahimaaz situated himself so that he might bear the message of victory to David.  He heard all that David had instructed Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, commanders in the field: “‘Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom.’  And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.” (KJV, 2 Samuel 18:5.)

“But the king’s solicitude, seeming to declare that Absalom was dearer to him than his kingdom, dearer even than the subjects faithful to his throne, only increased the indignation of the soldiers against the unnatural son” (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 743).

How much did David love this son?

“Absalom, his own son, whom he loved above all his children, rebelled against him.  By his remarkable beauty, winning manners, and pretended kindness, he cunningly stole the hearts of the people.  He did not possess benevolence at heart, but was ambitious, and, as his course shows, would resort to intrigue and crime to obtain the kingdom.  He would have requited his father’s love and kindness by taking his life.  He was proclaimed king by his followers in Hebron, and led them out to pursue his father.  He was defeated and slain” (Ellen White, Vol. 1, Spirit of Prophecy, 382, emphasis added).

Adhering to Joab throughout the conflict, Ahimaaz witnessed the events leading to Absalom hanging by his hair in that tree.  Though the soldier who found Absalom in this predicament refused to slay the rebel prince, “Joab was restrained by no scruples.  He had befriended Absalom, having twice secured his reconciliation with David, and the trust had been shamelessly betrayed.  But for the advantages gained by Absalom through Joab’s intercession, this rebellion, with all its horrors, could never have occurred.  Now it was in Joab’s power at one blow to destroy the instigator of all this evil.” (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 743, 744.) Joab’s only remorse was for being taken advantage of his kindnesses.  One dart would have done the work of execution. Joab used three.  Then he allowed ten of his armor bearers to each have their turn at piercing Absalom’s body with blows. (2 Samuel 18:14, 15.)

Now was Ahimaaz’ moment. He longed to race to the king with the news of victory. He begged Joab for the opportunity to bear the tidings. Joab refused to send him. “Thou shalt not bear tidings this day, but thou shalt bear tidings another day: but this day thou shalt bear no tidings, because the king's son is dead” (KJV, 2 Samuel 18:20).  Instead, Joab sent Cushi as the official messenger. Again, Ahimaaz pled to run with the news. Again, Joab refused him, saying, “Wherefore wilt thou run, my son, seeing that thou hast no tidings ready?” (Ibid. verse 22).  A third time, Ahimaaz persisted with his request to run. This time, Joab granted his wish.

Choosing to run by way of the plain, Ahimaaz outpaced the official messenger. Arriving breathless at the gate where David sat, he announced the victory of the king’s troops. “All is well… Blessed be the Lord thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king.” (Ibid. verse 28.)  But when queried of Absalom’s welfare, Ahimaaz proved himself a false messenger.  He went so far as to lie regarding the news of Absalom’s death by feigning ignorance, “When Joab sent the king's servant, and me thy servant, I saw a great tumult, but I knew not what it was” (Ibid. verse 29).

Cushi, the official messenger, arrived to give the news, both popular and unpopular truths for the king.  When asked regarding Absalom’s wellbeing, Cushi gave the whole truth—regardless of the outcome.  He told the truth as tactfully as possible, and left the results to God. “The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is” (Ibid. verse 32).

Many times I have heard ministers preach sermons of God’s unconditional love illustrated by David’s response to the news of Absalom’s death.  But, a closer examination of the facts as presented in Scripture and Spirit of Prophecy will prove just how false these conclusions are!

When God covenanted with Abraham so many centuries before, He promised, “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (KJV, Genesis 12:2, 3, emphasis added).  The language here presented is not unconditional love language.  God is showing Himself to be loyal to those who are loyal to Him.  Those who curse, or by any other means seek to destroy those loyal to God, will be cursed and destroyed by God.  With unconditional love, there is no condition by which such a statement could be made.

Even at Sinai, after the apostasy of idolatry, God promised Israel, “Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.  But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.  For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off” (KJV, Exodus 23:21-23, emphasis added).

When David wept for his finally unrepentant son, it shamed his loyal subjects.  They were left to feel that this vile rebel was of more value than his kingdom with all his loyal citizens and soldiers who risked their lives, and had even been wounded and killed to protect their beloved sovereign.  They began to slither away, their joy at victory dissolving into an unhealthy, questioning sorrow over the king’s reaction.

“Joab was filled with indignation.  God had given them reason for triumph and gladness; the greatest rebellion that had ever been known in Israel had been crushed; and yet this great victory was turned to mourning for him whose crime had cost the blood of thousands of brave men.  The rude, blunt captain pushed his way into the presence of the king, and boldly said, ‘Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters; ... in that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends.  For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well.  Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the Lord, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now.’
“Harsh and even cruel as was the reproof to the heart-stricken king, David did not resent it. Seeing that his general was right, he went down to the gate, and with words of courage and commendation greeted his brave soldiers as they marched past him” (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, 745, emphasis added).

If we are to be faithful messengers of the Gospel of Christ, we will in no way change or amend the truth as it is in Christ regarding the dangers of sympathizing with unrepentant sinners.  We are not called to sympathize with sin in any form!

“There is a sympathy for sin and sinners that is dangerous to the prosperity of the church at the present day.  You must have charity is the cry.  But that sentiment that would excuse wrong and shield the guilty, is not the charity of the Bible.  The friendship of the wicked is more dangerous than their enmity; for none can prevail against the servants of the living God, except by tempting them to disobedience.

“The offensive character of sin can be estimated only in the light of the cross.  When men urge that God is too merciful to punish the transgressors of his law, let them look to Calvary; let them realize that it was because Christ took upon himself the guilt of the disobedient, and suffered in the sinners stead, that the sword of justice was awakened against the Son of God.  It was to save us from shame and everlasting contempt that he endured the scorn and mockery which the world heaped upon him.  It was our sins that caused the Saviour of the world such intense agony, pouring darkness into his soul, and extorting from his pale lips the anguished cry, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
“He was numbered among the transgressors, he made his soul an offering for sin, that in his righteousness the believing, repenting sinner might stand justified before God” (Ellen White, Signs of the Times, January 6, 1881, emphasis added).

So, which messenger will you emulate?  The false messenger who lied, or the true messenger that gave even the unpopular truth?  May we be found loyal, faithful messengers for God in finishing the gospel commission given to us in these last days!