Sermon delivered April 13, 2002 by Dr. Gordon Bietz

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Ahithophel - Time Bomb

(Dr. Gordon Bietz is the President of Southern Adventist University)

You know, we tend to get in out own little environments and don't connect with each other very well all the time, whether it's our church or our community or our circle of friends. I know that the McDonald Road church is here, but I don't come over here very often. I'm glad to have the opportunity of being invited to join you in worship today.

Frequently when I go to a church to preach, of course I share a little bit of news and information about Southern Adventist University. You can probably tell me more than I Know. I am grateful that this year we have our highest enrollment in history and looking at the continued strengthening of that enrollment for next year we are looking at ways to accommodate the number of students that want to attend Southern, whether that is building additional on the dormitory or adding more housing to the Southern Village that we started. We're looking at ways of expanding the gymnasium into a well-ness center that would allow the well-ness degree to be taught in a facility that has more laboratory space. And there's a lot of growth going on as I'm sure many of you folks know.

The Lord is blessing Southern and I think that you can be proud of that because as your pastor indicated it's your school. Now, I say that, not simply because McDonald is so close to Southern, but because McDonald is a part of the Southern Union. Every congregation in the Southern Union sponsors financially Southern Adventist University because the Southern Union gives us substantial subsidy each year so that our tuition does not have to be any higher. I know those of you who have students there probably think that it is high enough. The reality is that the tuition income pays a little more than seventy percent of the actual cost of operating the institution. AND so, we depend on other sources of funds, gifts as well as the subsidy from the Southern Union.

We appreciate your support, your prayers, and your interest in the activity there. And of course the best help that you can be is not financial but communicating to young people that are of college age that it's the place for them to be.

I could make an argument, though I probably wouldn't to everybody, but I think I could logically make the argument that if you only had four years that you could send a young person to school in a Christian environment, if out of the twenty years from first grade through graduate school, that a young person might obtain in their life, the most crucial time period is that time period when they are choosing a life partner, when they are choosing a life career, and when they are separating themselves intellectually from their parents, when they are making decisions that are their decisions and not simply choosing parental godliness.

What kind of environment do want your young person in when they are making those decisions? What kind of mentors would you like them to be taught by? What kind of peer group would you like them to be associated with? Lots of steadies of, and this is not simply in the context of Christianity or the Seventh-day Adventist Church, studies that taught abut the change in values of a young person say that the most significant influence at the college career time on a person's value system is the peers they are with, not the teachers, not the classes, not even the school. It's what kind of peer group are they with. Well, we have attracted, fortunately, through the leadership in the past of people I feel like Dr. Bennett sitting right here in your congregation. We have attracted a kind of peers, a kind of young people that are spiritually oriented and are committed to God.

We have nearly two hundred theology majors. We have a hundred student missionaries majors. We have student missionaries that are returning. We have one out of ten students who are preparing to be a minister in a sense. An so that kind of peer group transforms some people that come there, even if they don't have that much of an orientation toward spirituality.

So, things are going well at Southern and we continue to appreciate an interest in your prayers.

I enjoyed the video this morning that was shown about the world church and the personal giving plan. Again, I find that the more opportunity that I have to travel in different parts of the world the broader the perspective I have of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Last Sabbath I preached at Mission College in Bangkok, Thailand. It's about an hour outside of Bangkok. There was an education seminar over there for the leaders in the education field in four of our Asia-Pacific Divisions. They gathered in Bangkok and for the Sabbath service we went out to this college. I continually reinforces in my mind that we are not a part of a small group just here looking inwardly at our selves. But we are part of a world church organization and it's very important for us to continually recognize that. Important not only to recognize it, but to contribute to it financially tie ourselves together. You know where, people say if you want to really know what your values are and what your priorities are don't ask the person. Simply look in their checkbook and then you can find out. And it's true. Our values, our interest, our priorities are determine by how we distribute our resources. And we have developed a culture in the Seventh-day Adventist Church that ties us together world-wide, not only financially but with our missionaries our students and our publications and everything. And it's a wonderful organization to belong to and to participate in. Again, the more opportunity that I have to visit other parts of the world the more appreciative I am of that particular aspect of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Can you imagine what it is like to work for the bomb squad? Have you ever thought about there's a package at an airport that people don't know what it is. They're nervous about it and so they send for you, and you go and you're supposed to check this out. Is it going to explode? What is it going to do? Working for the bomb squad could be a very scary thing. Beyond that, imagine what it's like living in Israel right now where you get onto a bus and you're not sure if one of these people you're standing next to is a bomb, who has covered themselves with explosives and is going to blow up. It would certainly would make for a highly stressful environment.

I've read a number of stories about people who have tried to disarm bombs and maybe they have blown up in their face. But, working on a ticking time bomb could be really stressful thing.

Have you ever know a person that's like that? They seem like a normal enough person but you get on a certain subject and they explode. They're like a bomb, you know. There's a certain thing that is like a trigger, and if you talk about that thing with that person, it just sets them off. They're time bombs. The smallest static electricity set them off. A comment, a word.

One thing that makes for unstable people and people that are time bombs is when they carry a grudge. They've been offended about some thing or some subject, and you bring that subject up and they're explosive. When I pastored the Collegedale Church occasionally I would visit people like that. Maybe they weren't going to church any more, and they had a reason that they weren't going to church. And if you wanted to find it out, you would go and sit down and talk with them and mention them coming back to church, and poof, explosion. Because there was something they felt injured about, that they were carrying, and that had built up a lot of gunpowder in their lives. And when you set it off, by mentioning that subject, they would just explode. They were carrying a grudge.

The dictionary defines a grudge as a cherished dislike. Isn't that an interesting word? Cherished dislike. Now, it's one thing to cherish something that you like. That makes sense. You wife, your children, your friends, but when we cherish something that we don't like, what's going on? To cherish a like, to love a bed.

You know, it's kind of an oxymoron. You know what an oxymoron is. It's like words in combination that simply don't make sense. Soft rock. There's no such thing as soft rock, is there? Working vacation. Or, almost exactly. These words just don't go together. Almost exactly? Synthetic natural gas. That's an oxymoron. Military intelligence, someone has suggested is an oxymoron. Clearly misunderstood. I'm clearly misunderstood. To cherish a dislike is an oxymoron. That's what carrying a grudge is. It's cherishing a dislike. It's a pet peeve. It's a wound that we grab to ourselves and that we hang on to.

Imagine someone who loves their wound, you know. They broke their arm and they cherish it. They love that. Isn't it great? I mean, look at that. People who are carrying a grudge are displaying wounds, are cherishing wounds, and they're time bombs. Because if you touch that wound, they explode. You never know when they'll explode. Certain subjects. "That person just set me off," they say.

Ahithophel was a time bomb. He was a person like that. Normal under all circumstances, seemed to be a friendly person, a very bright person, good friend of David's, but he was wound up tighter than a clock. And he was ready to explode. Now, it wasn't that he was stupid. People who carry a grudge aren't necessarily stupid people. He was a wise man, but there was a part of his life that he was really stupid in. Even smart people can do some really stupid things.

The Bible says, in 2 Samuel 16:23, that the advice of Ahithophel was like that of one who inquires of God. Isn't that neat? When it came to judgment in most things, it was like you were talking to God. How would you like that said about you? "When you get counsel from Bob, it's like you're asking God." Boy, this was a smart man. "When you get advice from Susan, it's like you're getting advice from God." We read in 1 Chronicles 27:33 that Ahithophel was the king's counselor. Now, not only was Ahithophel a wise man, but as the king's counselor he had a lot of status in the kingdom because any time the king had a problem, he would call for Ahithophel. He would have access to the palace. He would have access to David. Any time they wanted good information, ask Ahithophel. It would be like today, President Bush always calling you for advice. "I need to know what to do in the Middle East. What do you need me to tell you what to do?" I mean, he would have a lot of say in the kingdom. But Ahithophel, as wise as he was, was loaded up with gunpowder. he was a time bomb. He was carrying a grudge. He was full of bitterness, anger and hostility because of an experience that he had, that he was not able to get over.

What was the grudge that he was carrying? What is the grudge that you're carrying? Are you carrying something? Is there something in your life that is building up the gunpowder, of being a time bomb that if someone touches you on that subject it really sets you off? Maybe it was something you were injured about. Maybe some individual that did something totally wrong to you. Is there someone, is there something in your life that sets you off?

Well, let's see what set Ahithophel off. You remember the story in the Bible that Absalom rebelled against David. The Bible said he stole the hearts of the men of Israel. And we can read about it in 2 Samuel 15:2-4. This is how Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gates. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, "What town are you from?" he would answer, "You servant is from one of the tribes of Israel." Then Absalom would say to him, "Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is not representative of the king to hear you." And Absalom would add, "Oh, if only I were appointed judge in the land. Then everyone who has a compliant or a case could come by me and I would see that he got justice." He was stealing the hearts of the people. Easy to curry favor when you don't have the authority for it, isn't it. When you don't have the responsibility you can say, "Well, I would help you. I would do this. I would do that." And he stole the hearts of the people.

Well, Absalom was doing this for four years in Jerusalem, right under the king's nose. If you want to this afternoon, read the chapter prior to 2 Samuel 15. 2 Samuel 14 describes how Absalom came back into Jerusalem after he had had the experience of killing his step-brother Amnon, who had murdered his sister Tamar. Believe me, if you want a soap opera just kind of read a couple of those chapters there. There were some terrible thing going on.

Anyway, after four years of kissing up to the people, ingratiating himself to everyone, Absalom said to the king in 2 Samuel 15:7, "Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the Lord. Hebron is about twenty miles south of Jerusalem. When he arrived at Hebron, he sent secret messengers to the tribes of Israel and this message is in 2 Samuel 15:10. "As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, 'Absalom is king in Hebron." He went down to Hebron, not to complete his vow in Hebron, it was probably, "I want to be king." He didn't mention that to David when he left Jerusalem, but that's what he went down there for. He was going there to foment rebellion against David.

There was Absalom in Hebron, starting a rebellion. He was gathering an army, he was organizing his cabinet, he was reaching out to everyone who would support him, and he was getting ready to march on Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 15:12, While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom's following kept on increasing. Absalom asked Ahithophel to join the rebellion. Now, how in the world could he do that? Ahithophel was a wise man. he had been David's counselor for a long time. He was serving in David's cabinet. It would be like a democrat giving a republican to run his election campaign. He reached right into David's cabinet, his private group of counselors and got one of them to join the rebellion. And what does the Bible say? Because he did that his conspiracy gained strength. Because Absalom was able to attract some of David's counselors everybody else began to think, "Well, I guess we'd better get on the right side of this. You know, Ahithophel! Who, when you counsel with him it's like asking the counsel of God and he joins this conspiracy. Apparently we should join, too." And so the conspiracy gained strength.

How could Absalom get Ahithophel to do that? Certainly he was smart enough to know that this was not a sure thing: rebellion. Absalom knew something about Ahithophel. He knew that he was a time bomb. Over the years, the four years in Jerusalem, he had opportunity to talk to people and commiserate with people and he went to Ahithophel and found out that Ahithophel was carrying a grudge, a very heavy grudge, a cherished dislike about David.

I imagine that this grudge caused Ahithophel to abandon David. Now, what was this grudge? What would cause Ahithophel to abandon his long-time friend, David? Well, I've put together a couple verses. You don';t need to look them all up. 2 Samuel 23:34 gives a list of David's mighty men and it mentions Eliam, the son of Ahithophel. So we find that Ahithophel had a son named Eliam. So what? In 2 Samuel 11:2 we read, David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Bathsheba the grand-daughter of Ahithophel was taken from her husband and her husband was killed by David. Ahithophel's son, Elaim had a daughter, named Bathsheba. So this grudge: Bathsheba had been stolen by David and Uriah, the Hittite, her husband had been killed by David.

Now, Bathsheba probably undoubtedly forgave David. And maybe Elaim, Bathsheba's father forgave David. And, certainly we know that God forgave David. But Ahithophel, the grandfather never let it go. He never forgave David for that sin. He carried a grudge, and for year and years and years it festered in him until it finally exploded when he had opportunity in Absalom's rebellion to abandon David. Absalom was estranged from his father and Ahithophel used that opportunity to participate in the rebellion.

Well, we of course know the story of what happened after that. Absalom marched on Jerusalem. He chased David out of Jerusalem. After David was out of Jerusalem Absalom asked Ahithophel what he should do next. Ahithophel's advice was "Sleep with your father's concubines. He knew that if Absalom didn't do something drastic like that that he could be reunited with David. And so he did that and then he came back for more counsel and his next advice was to use twelve thousand men and pursue David immediately. But instead of following his advice, Absalom decided to ask somebody else. It was Hushai. And of course you remember the story. Hushai was actually David's friend who had stayed behind to frustrate the counsel of Ahithophel and his advice was the he should wait and then make a large-scale attack on David in his stronghold. All the men of Absalom said that the advice of Hushai was better than the advice of Ahithophel.

I think his advice appealed to Absalom's ego that he'd make a big large-scale attack on David. Anyway, that end of Ahithophel's advice. What was the end of Ahithophel? Well, we read in 2 Samuel 17:23 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. Why did he hang himself? He knew the cause was doomed. He knew that David would be able to rally the troops and in the end win the battle.

In reality the end any grudge, the end of carrying bitterness in our hearts is suicide. It doesn't destroy the other person that we're seeking to injure. It destroys ourselves. If we are not able to experience forgiveness, and extend forgiveness to others, it isn't that it destroys others, it destroys ourselves. Jesus was hanging on the cross and He said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Forgiveness is not something you give to people when they come crawling to you on their knees. Forgiveness is not something you extend to people when they finally realize that they were wrong and you were right and they beg forgiveness. Forgiveness is an attitude toward people that you don't hold grudges. You don't carry bitterness. Bitterness is a poison like a boomerang. You throw it and it might feel good when you throw it, but it comes back to cut your heart out. Carrying a grudge destroys us. It doesn't destroy others.

Can you imagine doing with the physical wound what we sometimes do with a spiritual wound? I get a cut on my hand and I put a band-aide on it and show it to my wife. And she says, "It looks pretty bad but I think maybe it will get better." The next day I take the band-aide off and show it to her and she says, "Yes, it's really healing. It looks good." But I say, "No, it's not." And so I pop it open again. I squeeze it open until it bleeds. "Look how bad that is!" And she says, "Yeah, that is pretty bad." But what's even worse is that you opened it up. I would never do that with a physical cut.

Why do we do that with emotional injuries? Why, when I am injured by you or someone other emotionally, do I then go to somebody else and keep opening the cut? Keep showing it so that infection continues to grow? And again, eventually destroys myself like it destroyed Ahithophel in his suicide. Don't nurse a grudge. Don't allow the poison of the past to pollute the present.

Whether the past sins are your own or whether they're others, accept an experience of God's grace. When we understand God's forgiveness of us, we are able to extend that forgiveness to others even when they don't ask for it. Maybe they don't want it because we're forgiving them not for them, we're forgiving them not for them but for us. We are expressing to them the grace of God the same way God expressed His grace to us, dying for us while we were yet sinners. And so we, in turn, are able to die for others, to forgive others, to live gracefully for others, even while they are sinners. Don't collect the powder of a time bomb, its explosion will destroy you.

Didn't Ahithophel have a right to be offended? Absolutely! Didn't David do a heinous thing? Absolutely! Didn't he have a right to be injured? Absolutely! Did he have a right to be unforgiving and to carry that bitterness through his whole life? No. Not if he was going to experience what God wants us to experience. God forgave David. Ahithophel apparently never did.

The best way to defuse a grudge is forgiveness before it's asked. Even if it's never asked. Christians forgive. Our scripture today: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil." Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. Do you suffer evil? Don't pay the wages that you received to others. If you love those who love you, what reward will you give? The tax collectors do that. If you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? The pagans do that. Love your enemies. If you enemy is hungry, feed him. If he's thirsty, give him something to drink. You'll heap coals of fire on his head.

Think of someone you may be holding a grudge against. It may not be big, just a broken relationship. Maybe an estranged relationship. Now, think of some way you can defuse that: send that person a note, maybe a dinner invitation, maybe a phone call. Remember to take your wound and continue to open it up and you will eventually die from the infection. Allow the cleansing grace of God to clean out those infections.

Bulletin

Hymn of Praise: #229, All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name
Scripture: Romans 12:17
Hymn of Response: #299, Forgive Our Sins as We Forgive



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