The Sustaining Power of Friendship

29 Apr

How many friends do you have?

No, I’m not referring to the 60,000 of your closest friends you meet with to root the home team on to victory. And I don’t mean Facebook friends either.

How many real friends do you have? Friends who will drive you to the airport for a 6am flight. Friends you can turn to when you receive bad news in the mail. Friends you can call at 3am when you are tempted to sin. How many friends do you have like that?

After David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11), he spent at least nine months trying to cover up the sin. During that time, he experienced a deep sense of guilt (Psalm 32 and 51 were written during that period of time.) Though forgiven (2 Samuel 12), David experienced the natural consequences of his sin, including anger, bitterness, incest, rape, murder, and rebellion among his now-grown children. It ultimately culminated in his son Absalom’s conspiracy to steal the kingdom away from him (2 Samuel 15:1-17).

At this point in his life, David needs some help. He needs some friends. God gives David not one, but five friends.

There was Ittai the Gittite (2 Samuel 15:18-21) – a friend who stood with David when everyone turned against him. When there is no more throne, no more glory, he comes out of the woodwork and declares his allegiance.

Then there were Zadok & Abiathar (2 Samuel 15:24-28) – friends who brought God to David. These two priests brought the ark to David. When are discouraged, distraught, and on the run, sometimes we can’t bring ourselves to God. The last thing we want to do is read the Bible or pray. That’s when we need some friends who will bring God to us.

Don’t forget Hushai the Archite (2 Samuel 15:32-37) – a friend who protected David by frustrating his enemies. One of David’s former advisors, Ahithophel, goes over to Absalom. David prays for God to frustrate his counsel. It’s at that moment that Hushai offers his services to David. Rather than take him along into exile, David sends him back into Jerusalem to serve as a spy and resistance leader. Hushai’s mission was to contradict the advice of Ahithophel.

Then you have Shobi, Machir, & Barzillai (2 Samuel 17:27-29) – friends who provided a refuge in the wilderness. Having escaped from Absalom, David still faced grave danger. Besides the threat of imminent attack from Absalom’s troops, David’s followers needed food and other basic supplies. That’s where Shobi, Machir, and Barzillai step up.

Shobi, from the sons of Ammon, could have said, “David has fought my people, and he has been so cruel. There’s no way I’m gonna take even a morsel of bread to David.” Machir was from Lo-debar, the home of Mephibosheth. When Mephibosheth fled for his life, he wound up in the middle of the desert. Machir was the man who took him in. He was the kind of guy who took care of people when they were in need. He could have thought, “I fulfilled my responsibility. I’ve paid my dues. David is going to have to took care of himself.” Barzillai was 80 years old. He could have said, “I’m retired. I’m old. I already served my time. Let somebody younger do it.” But he didn’t say that.

These three men got their heads together, worked hard, and loaded up every supply they could think of and headed off to help David, their friend in need.

Last, but not least, was Joab (2 Samuel 19:1-7) – a friend who was willing to confront David and tell him the truth. David mourns the death of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:33). In so doing, he causes the army to feel ashamed. David’s personal grief was out of control and in danger of destroying his newly salvaged kingship. He needed someone with a clear mind and a firm hand to put an end to his pity party.

Joab confronts David and tells him to act like the king. He is direct and pointed. Joab tells David that in a world where one’s honor was more than one’s life, David had brought shame on all the men who had just saved his life and the lives of his sons and daughters and wives. Joab warned David that if he didn’t go out and encourage his men, he could permanently alienate himself from those he needed most.

If you want to have these kinds of friends in your life, then start by being this kind of friend to others.

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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Character, Ministry, Scripture


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