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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:The Power of Prayer Against the Enemies of God
Text:2 Samuel 16:1-23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Comfort in a World of Pain

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Selections from the 1976 Psalter Hymnal, unless otherwise noted:

532 - (Red) Day Is Dying in the West

RR - Psalm 37:1-20 (Page 874)

65:1,5,6,7 – The Good Man’s Steps Are Led Aright

464 - Christian, Dost Thou See Them?

463 - He Leadeth Me

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
“The Power of Prayer Against the Enemies of God”
2 Samuel 16:1-23

In your life and in mine, we have both enemies and friends. The same was true for David. He had some really close friends and allies, but he also faced treacherous enemies. When David fled from Jerusalem, because of the political coup and conspiracy of his son Absalom, the Lord provided him with committed friends. There was Ittai the Gittite who promised, “As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be” (2 Samuel 15:21).

2 Samuel 15 also records how Zadok, Abiathar and the priests of Levi offered to bring the ark of the covenant to David, to be a source of God’s strength to him.  In that passage we read how David declined that offer, as he trusted in God’s providence rather than external religious objects, yet certainly he must have been encouraged by the friendship, concern and thoughtfulness conveyed by Zadok, Abiathar and the other priests. In the previous chapter we also read about the friendship of Hushai, the Arkite, who was willing to go back to Jerusalem and serve as a spy to counteract the advice given to Absalom by Ahithophel.

These friends were a source of great comfort to David at a very low point in his life. The friends he had also remind us that the Lord befriends us, that Christ is the friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

Friendships are important for many reasons, among them the fact that friendships help us cope with the hostilities of those who are enemies of God and enemies of His people. Just as in the previous chapter we read about some touching friendships, so in this chapter we read of some hostile enemies of David.  As we look at these enemies we see, first of all –

Deceptively Smooth Enemies

The enemies of God’s people can be deceptively smooth, posing as friends. That is certainly what Ziba does. In the opening verses we find him presenting a string of donkeys loaded with provisions for David and his men.  It was quite a spread of food, 200 loaves of bread, 100 cakes of raisins, figs, and a skin of wine.

David is understandably touched by this outward act of great kindness, and he asks Ziba where his master, Mephibosheth, is.  You recall that Mephibosheth was Saul’s grandson, Jonathan’s son who was lame. In 2 Samuel 9 we read of how David had extended kindness – the hesed kindness of the Lord – to Mephibosheth.

But now Ziba tells David how Mephibosheth has defected over to Absalom. David rashly promised Ziba everything that he had given to Mephibosheth – verse 4 –  – Then the king said to Ziba, “All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.

“I humbly bow,” Ziba said. “May I find favor in your eyes, my lord the king.”

However, the humble bow, the donkeys laden with provisions, and the explanation that Mephibosheth was supporting Absalom’s revolt in hopes that the kingdom would return to Saul’s lineage – all these things were a smooth sham.

Later on, in 2 Samuel 19:26, we will read how David discovers that Ziba had deceived him and had betrayed and slandered Mephibosheth.  It is reminder that the enemies of God - including the devil - don’t always approach us with open hostility. At times the enemies of God try to deceive us by posing as our friends, pretending they have the good of Christianity at heart.

In the New Testament we have the ultimate example of an enemy who posed as a friend, an enemy who posed as a true disciple, an enemy who betrayed our Lord with the most affectionate of gestures; he betrayed Him with a kiss.

Openly Hostile Enemies

Other enemies of God and His people are openly hostile and antagonistic like Shimei, who ran alongside of David, cursed him and threw stones at him as he fled (5-14).  Enemies of God’s people are often openly and aggressively hostile. Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow have written a book entitled, Is God Just a Human Invention and 17 Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists. Each chapter begins with a quote from those described as “the new atheists.”  Representative of such writing is Christopher Hitchens, who observes: “Violent, irrational, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.” (Pg. 135).

In our culture today, not just in areas where the church is persecuted severely, but in our American culture today we see many who have the same type of hostility against God’s people as Shimei had against David. We see all around us the venom and outright hostility that many in our fallen world have toward Christ and His followers.

Antagonistic Family Members

A third type of enemy to God’s people is, in some ways, the most heartbreaking.  It is the former friend or even family member who turn against the faith as Ahithophel did.

When we read about David’s sin with Bathsheba, we saw that it was heinous, not just on the surface, but the way it had a ripple effect in the lives of others, as sin always does.  We saw that David, in his lust, committed adultery with Bathsheba, even though she was married to one his most committed soldiers, Uriah the Hittite.  Uriah is listed among “the mighty men” in 2 Samuel 23:39, yet David took his wife.

Bathsheba, however, wasn’t only a trusted military man’s wife, she was also the granddaughter of David’s top advisor, Ahithophel.  As such, humanly speaking, many believe that Ahithophel had “an axe to grind,” and that for years he held it against David for what he had done with his granddaughter, and the way he disposed of her husband as he tried to cover his adulterous affair.

While Ahithophel may have had an “agenda” in his defection to Absalom, his defection does remind us that often it is former friends, friends whom we never expected to become enemies, who turn against us.  And many times it is members of our own families. Jesus Himself warned, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword…. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” ( (Matthew 10:34, 36).

When someone close to us, a member of our own family, turns against us because of our faith in Christ, it is indeed a terrible feeling. As Psalm 55:12-14 puts it:  If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

When we look at Ahithophel’s defection we can’t help but be reminded again of the most notorious traitor in history, Judas Iscariot.  In 2 Samuel 17:23 we will read how when Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father's tomb…   More than one commentator points out the similarity to Judas Iscariot.

Ahithophel not only had an axe to grind with David, humanly speaking, but he also had an axe to grind with God, at least in his mind. By supporting Absalom over David, he showed that he had no regard for God and His covenant of grace and the promise of the Redeemer from the lineage of David.

David’s Humble Response

As we read about the various enemies David faced, we can’t help but observe that David sets an excellent example of seeking God’s will and accepting His chastisement, especially in regard to Shimei’s curses. When David’s nephew, Abishai, hears Shimei cursing David, he offers to do what he does best. It is the same offer he made to David back in 1 Samuel 26:8 regarding Saul.   He wants to use his sword. He says, “Let me go over and cut off his head!”

But David’s response is remarkable. He says, “If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”  David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today” (10-12).

David responds by trusting in the Lord.  He realizes that he is still being chastised for his sin with Bathsheba, that the repercussions of sin are causing his life to unravel, - as sin always does.  At this point David is an example of what Paul would write about in Romans 12, Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse... Do not repay anyone evil for evil… Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  (Romans 12:14, 17, 19-21).

Later on, however, David will also pronounce judgment on Shimei, and his son, Solomon, will carry that out, as described in 1 Kings 2:8-9, 36-46, where Solomon has Shimei struck down with the sword. Some see that as vengeance on the part of David, while others attribute that to his judicial office as king.  I take the latter view, as 1 Kings 2:44-45 quotes Solomon as saying to Shimei, “You know in your heart all the wrong you did to my father David. Now the LORD will repay you for your wrongdoing. But King Solomon will be blessed, and David's throne will remain secure before the LORD forever.”   It was, in the context of 1 Kings 2, the Lord who repaid Shimei, but He used David and Solomon as the means of temporal judgment on him.

The Power of Prayer

We also observe in this chapter that David’s “missile prayer” back in 2 Samuel 15:31 is answered by the Lord. When we talk about a “missile prayer” we are referring, of course, to a prayer that is offered on the run, in the midst of a busy hectic day, as we encounter a thorny issue or problem, we can send a “missile prayer” upwards to the Lord.

When we studied Nehemiah, a number of years ago now, we saw that he used many so-called “missile prayers.”  For instance, in Nehemiah 2:4-5a we read: The king said to me, “What is it you want?”  Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king…

We also saw that Nehemiah was a man who employed lengthy, well thought out prayers as well.  Both go hand in hand.  We must have both in our lives, the structured thought-out prayers, and then, having cultivated by God’s grace a faithful prayer life, we can also offer up the “missile prayers” with great confidence.

David’s prayer life was similar to Nehemiah’s.  We read in the Psalms of his well thought out prayers to God, and here, we are reminded that he also prayed those spur of the moment prayers, such as we read about in 2 Samuel 15:31. In that passage David has learned that his trusted advisor, Ahithophel, has defected to the other side, and so he prays, “O Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.”

The Lord answers that prayer in dramatic fashion. In 2 Samuel 16:20-22 Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your advice. What should we do?” Ahithophel answered, “Lie with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench in your father’s nostrils, and the hands of everyone with you will be strengthened.”  So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he lay with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.

As this tragic scene takes place, David is on the run.  It gives him time to escape from the area, to regroup, refocus, to pray and seek the Lord’s leading.  The best advice Ahithophel could have given Absalom would have been to pursue David right away, at that moment.  He will give that advice in the next chapter, and Hushai, David’s friend who served as a spy, will wisely counter- act that advice, but had Ahithophel told Absalom to pursue David right away, David most likely would have gone down to defeat in death.

In the process of Absalom following Ahithophel’s foolish advice, to lie with David’s concubines, he also fulfills – as God uses all types of means to an end – the prophecy the Lord had given David through Nathan the prophet, back in 2 Samuel 12:11-12: “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

 Confidence in God’s Providential Care

As we find David on the run, helped by some loyal friends and betrayed and attacked by enemies, both subtle and overtly hostile, we are reminded, by way of application, that in all the troubles of life we can pray with confidence, trusting God’s providential leading and guidance.

We read of that in many of the Psalms David wrote, including Psalm 37. That Psalm doesn’t directly say which occasion it was written on, but it relates, especially in verse 7-9, to what David encounters here in 2 Samuel 16.  In the Psalm he writes:  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

We can pray with confidence, both the structured, thoughtful prayers that must mark the life of every believer, and we can pray the spur of the moment missile prayers with confidence. Our confidence comes from Christ, our Great High Priest who ever lives to intercede for us (Heb. 7:25). Through prayer we will have wisdom and discernment in knowing how to respond to both friends and those who oppose Christ and His followers, all the while having the assurance that we are to be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him… For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land. Amen.

 Bulletin Outline -
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 15:31
                          “The Power of Prayer Against the Enemies of God”
                                                   2 Samuel 16:1-23
I.  The enemies of God’s people can be:
     1) Deceptively smooth, posing as a friend like Ziba (1-4; 2 Sam 19:26)
     2) Openly hostile and antagonistic like Shimei (5-14)
     3) Former friends or family members who turn against the faith
          like Ahithophel (15; cf. 2 Samuel 15:12; 17:23)
II. Observations:
     1) David sets an excellent example of seeking God’s will in regard
          to Shimei’s curses (9-12), though he will also pronounce judg-
          ment on Shimei, carried out by Solomon (1 Kings 2:8-9, 36-46)
     2) David’s “missile prayer” (2 Sam. 15:31) is answered by the Lord
          as Ahithophel’s advice to Absalom (20-22) gives David time to
          escape, even as it fulfills the prophecy the Lord had given David
          through Nathan (2 Samuel 12:11-12)
III.  In all the troubles of life we can pray with confidence through faith in Christ,
      trusting God’s providential leading and guidance (2 Samuel 15:31; Psalm 37:7-9)



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Ted Gray

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