Ahithophel was a counselor to King David. But when David’s son, Absalom, rose up in rebellion to stage a coup and drive David from the throne, Ahithophel sided with Absalom and became his counselor. The first counsel he gave to Absalom, who had now entered Jerusalem, was to set up a tent on the rooftop of the royal residence and go in unto David’s concubines, whom David had left behind in Jerusalem. In doing this Absalom would completely, utterly and finally estrange himself from his father (2 Sam. 15-17). Absalom followed Ahithophel’s counsel because, “in those days, 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 Absalom” (2 Sam. 16:23).
But the wily veteran, David, instructed another counselor of his, Hushai, to remain behind in Jerusalem and feign loyalty to Absalom in order to defeat the counsel that Ahithophel would give. The ploy worked. The second counsel Ahithophel gave to Absalom was to allow him to take 12,000 men and attack David immediately before David and his men had time to develop a strategy and prepare for the onslaught. Actually, this was good strategic advice and Hushai knew it. So, when Absalom asked Hushai for his counsel, he said, “This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good.” Well, that was the first time in memory that anyone challenged the counsel of Ahithophel. Hushai, suggested that David, being a veteran of many campaigns, would not camp with the people and any attack would not yield the life of David as Absalom desired. Instead, Hushai counseled, they should call for reinforcements from all Israel and overwhelm David with sheer numbers. With the help of the influence of God in the hearts of those who heard him, Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” You see, God had ordained to defeat the “good counsel” of Ahithophel so that he might “bring harm upon Absalom” (17:14).
What is amazing in this narrative is that when Ahithophel’s counsel was defeated we are told, “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” (17:23). Wait! What? His counsel is not taken ONE TIME, and as a result he goes home and kills himself? Who does that? What kind of person kills himself because his counsel is not taken? Answer: Someone whose whole identify and reason for existing is wrapped up in being the consummate counselor whose counsel is like “the word of God”.
This seems so over the top so as to be unbelievable. That is, until we realize this happens all the time. Many of the world’s richest people have ended up suicides when they lost their riches. Their identify was wrapped up in being a rich person. How many wives have divorced their husbands once the kids grew up and moved out of the house because their identity was grounded in being a mother? How many celebrities have committed suicide because their “celebrity” waned? How many athletes’ lives have gone down the tubes after their athletic prowess and the fame generated from it, went away? How many beauty queens’ lives were lived in despair once their beauty faded. How many actors and actresses linked their value and worth to their “star” either rising or falling?
People are so often self-defined by what they do, what they have, their skill, or their appearance that when those things don’t go well, they are thrown into despair. This does not just happen to hyper-sensitive elite types. This can happen to anyone, including pastors who place their identity in their preaching and ministry. When the ministry is going well, they are on top of the world. When the ministry struggles, they find themselves in the slough of despond. The Christian businessman’s identify can be wrapped up in his performance and the balance sheet at the end of year. Self-worth can be defined by any number of things.
That is why, as Christians, we need to identify ourselves and our self-worth in terms of who we are in Christ. Our spouse can leave us. Our children can grow up and fly away. Our fortune can be diminished. And if we find our identity and self-worth in any of those things, we are susceptible to the onslaughts of depression and disillusionment. But if we find our self-worth in Christ, that will never change because Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
I was watching a football game not long ago and after the game a sideline reporter, as they always try to do, was interviewing the “star” of the game. She said to him something akin to “What does it mean to you to get this victory?” I’ve heard questions like this many times in similar situations to which the answer usually is, “Wow. It’s great. We’ve worked so hard. It doesn’t get any better than this.” So, I was pleased and surprised when this young man said, “Listen, football is just a game. I don’t find my identity in football. I find my identity in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
What a right and biblical perspective for a Christian! Football will go away. Defeats will come. Perhaps injury will curtail one’s career. That’s okay for this young man, because his self-worth and identity was not wrapped up in football… but in Christ.
Ahithophel was a case of severe identity malfunction. Sadly, it is not all that unusual. Dear Christian, you do not have worth and value because you do something extraordinary. You have self-worth because you are in Christ not because you can sing, teach, make money, or because lots of people like you. When our identity is found in Jesus Christ, our lives are on the most secure foundation possible.