“I have been sent to you by God!” How do you respond to those words? Excitement? Skepticism? I must admit that my response is more toward the latter. Specifically, I want to know what evidence there is that you have been sent by God. Now please understand, I realize that the God of the Bible is a sending God. And I also understand that a part of the mission of God’s people is to go when and where we are sent. But how am I to know that God sent you?
My preacher father introduced me to an Old Testament story in 2 Samuel 18 that involves this idea of sending. The context is the rebellion of Absalom. Chapter 17 records how God thwarted the wise counsel of Ahithophel. Being right does not always ensure success! And when Ahithophel realized his wise counsel was not going to be followed, he knew his time was up (2 Sam 17:23), so he goes home and commits suicide. Chapter 18 opens with David planning the final battle of the rebellion. He is confident of victory, but he is also worried about the fate of his son. So he clearly charges his generals to treat Absalom kindly (18:5). (Whether this was wise advice is another matter!) Joab, however, pays no attention to David’s order and kills Absalom as soon as he has an opportunity. Now comes the tough part. How does he tell David what he has done? A messenger needs to be sent.
In David’s time, the message to be sent determined the messenger. Bad news was carried by messengers of low social status. Good news was carried by people of high social status. Clearly this message will not be received by David as good news, so Cushi, maybe a name, but more likely an ethnic description, was chosen and sent with the ominous message (2 Sam 18:21). But Ahimaaz, the son of the priest Zadok, wants to be sent to! In fact, he insists on being sent. He keeps bugging Joab to send him, and Joab keeps explaining his reasons for not sending him. Joab knows that Ahimaaz is a better runner, and knows the area better. But the message does not fit him! At length, however, and in what seems to me exasperation, Joab relents and lets Ahimaaz run, thinking that Cushi surely has had enough of a head start to beat Ahimaaz to David.
But Joab underestimated the zeal and skill of Ahimaaz. And when David’s watchman looks out across the valley, the first runner he sees is Ahimaaz. David is encouraged. “He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings” (2 Sam 18:27). And in fact, Ahimaaz does indeed have what should have been welcome news to David. “All is well.” But that is not the news David wants to hear. How does that news relate to Absalom? But when David asks for clarification, Ahimaaz responds, “I don’t know.” The problem was that Ahimaaz had sent himself, and only knew what he wanted to tell. David’s disappointment can be felt in v. 30. “Turn aside, and stand here.” Or in my paraphrase, “Get out of my sight, you are worthless!”
Did Ahimaaz feel like he was sent by God, or at least Joab? I think so. He had the message he thought was needed, and the skill to deliver it better than the one actually sent. But the message he brought did not meet the need of the heart. So regardless of how valuable the message was, it was rejected with extreme disappointment.
As Ahimaaz stands back and watches, Cushi arrives. It seems likely that Ahimaaz looked on him with some disdain. But Cushi had the message David needed. And even though the message caused David great grief, it met the felt need in David’s life.
As Christians, we are to be messengers of God – sent by Him. But we need to be sure that the message we are carrying is God’s message for the person at that point in time, and not our message for that person. Our message may be correct without being timely, and we will be dismissed as worthless. If we feel God is sending us, let’s tarry long enough with God to make sure the message we are going to convey is His and not our own. God may want that person comforted before they are confronted!
Dr. Gordon L. Snider
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