Not everyone has experienced the betrayal of a close friend. Sure, some have lost employees, associates, and subordinates, but very few have felt the merciless sting of betrayal and conspiracy at the hands of a close and familiar friend.
Imagine the feeling of witnessing a familiar friend change his heart towards you. Even worse would be for that friend to help your detractors usurp your authority and attempt to destroy everything you have worked for.
King David found himself in such a situation when his friend Ahithophel, his counselor, someone David considered to be his “equal,” and his “guide,” joined Absalom’s conspiracy against him.
- 30 But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. 31 Now David had been told, "Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom." So David prayed, "O LORD, turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness" (2 Samuel 15:30-31).
David thought highly of Ahithophel. They must have spent many hours together discussing the Law of God and governance of the kingdom. They were likely close enough to share their hearts – their weaknesses, joys, and sorrows, - with one another.
Listen to David’s heart as he shares the bitter sorrow of his friends betrayal:
- “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him; but it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company” (Psalm 55:12-14).
You can sense David’s brokenness. He has been betrayed, let down, and deceived. It’s easy to detect his absolute devastation, abject sorrow, and utmost disbelief and astonishment as he pours out his heart onto the page. They were friends, shared sweet counsel, and went to church together. It was almost too much for David to bear. He could not believe it.
I can imagine how he felt.
David goes on to express his pain…
- “….he has broken his covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords” (Psalms 55:20-21).
David is sharing exactly what is in his heart. His heart has been broken by the disloyalty of his friend. We see the tragedy of the moment. David was shattered by the fact that Ahithophel had broken friendship with him .
But David understood that God was his ultimate source of help. In the next verse he says,
- Cast your burden on the Lord (i.e., releasing the full weight of it) and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be moved” (v.22).
David also vents a little, and believed that that God would give these disloyal betrayers (Absalom & Ahithophel) their just reward.
- “But you, God, will throw the others into a muddy bog, cut the lifespan of assassins and traitors in half. And I trust in You” (v.23).
I can identify with the pleasure David must have felt when he made that last statement. Right or wrong, that’s how he felt. He may have even been (secretly) hoping God would deal with them. We've all been there, haven't we? When we have been wronged we want some payback! But we are not allowed to take those kinds of matters into our own hands... we have to turn it over to God and allow Him to do what He will. That's the hard part. But it's necessary for our healing.
Because David eventually let go of the offense of Ahithophel’s disloyalty, his heart was healed. However, 2 Samuel 17:23 show us Ahithophel’s tragic end. After he went over to Absalom’s side and realized that his counsel was not going to be followed, he went home, set his house on fire and promptly hanged himself! This scene reminds us of David’s trust that God would throw the others into a muddy bog and cut the lifespan of assassins and traitors in half.
What a heartbreaking end for a man who had experienced the delight and pleasure of genuine friendship… and who's counsel WAS regarded when he was loyal to David.
LESSON: Never put aside years of friendship over a misunderstanding. That is stupid. Life is too short and genuine friendships are too few. It is easy to talk yourself into an offense. But the major characteristic of a person walking in faith is to walk in love – agape love – the love of God.