Years ago there lived an advisor to a great king. The advisor and king were friends. They ate together, they spent time together, and worshipped God together. This advisor had a son who was one of the mighty warriors in the king’s army, and the son had a beautiful daughter. The son gave his daughter in marriage to another of the king’s mighty warriors, and he truly loved her.
One spring when the king’s army went off to war, the king stayed behind in the safety of his palace. He had grown too important to risk the dangers of war. He lounged, enjoying the pleasure of his kingdom while his men fought to protect the kingdom. One evening, after a long afternoon nap, the king caught sight of the beautiful granddaughter of his trusted advisor. The king sent for her and he took that which was not his.
When the king learned the beautiful woman was pregnant, the king arranged for her husband to be killed. After a time of mourning the king brought the woman into the palace and married her, and the king was confident that his sin was covered.
A year later a prophet made his way into the court and confronted the king about his terrible sin. The king repents, but as a consequence the son born due to the illicit affair dies. The advisor, witnesses the prophet’s confrontation with the king, and when the advisor’s great grandson dies he realizes the treachery of his king. The king has dishonored his family, took advantage of his granddaughter, and murdered her loving husband.
For eleven years the advisor let hatred and bitterness grow in his heart. He waited for a chance to take his revenge on the king. Finally one of the king’s sons decided to rebel and steal the kingdom from his father. The advisor seizes the opportunity and sided with the son. He advised the son to dishonor his father publicly by sleeping with the king’s concubines, and the advisor urged the son to go after the king and to allow him, the advisor, the opportunity kill the king. For the advisor this was personal. The son takes the advisor’s first bit of advice, but relents from pursuing the king because the son listens to the advice of another advisor who is secretly loyal to the king. Because the old advisor knew the son would not succeed in overthrowing his father, and because he has backed the loser, the advisor went home and hungs himself.
The advisor’s name was Ahithophel, and he was the grandfather of Bathsheba. The story of Ahithophel and his part in Absalom’s conspiracy to overthrow David is found in 2 Samuel 16-17. It is thought that David wrote Psalm 55 during this time, and verses 12-14 are believed to be a reference to Ahithophel.
It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—I could have hidden from them.
Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend.
What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God. (NLT)
Ahithophel had every right to be angry with David, but he did not seek reconciliation with the king. Rather the advisor looked for a way to destroy the honor and life of David. Over time the hatred and bitterness consumed him, and in the end it was Ahithophel who was destroyed, not David.
When we hold on to the hatred and bitterness that we have in our lives we miss out on the wonderful life God has for us. Instead of seeing blessings and joy we become consumed with pain and indignation. We could be justified in our anger, and the other person could have really done us wrong, but our hatred for them does us more harm to us, especially to our hearts, than it ever does for them.
There is a parable that Jesus told that speaks to this very issue:
“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. (Matthew 18:23-34; NLT)
The hurt and pain that we have caused God as we have participated in destroying His creation and neglecting people whom He loves is so much greater than the harm people have done to us. Yes, people have hurt us and forgiveness does not seek to minimize that reality, what forgiveness does is allows you to move past the hurt and pain so you can seek to mend the broken relationship. One of the reasons we want to mend the broken relationship is because when we hang out to the pain and the outrage we are locking ourselves up in a prison that will hold us back from becoming the person God created us to be. Forgiveness is the key which is able to unlock the door.
A second reason we forgive is because God has forgiven us. If He can show mercy, then we too can show mercy. It is by the light of God’s forgiveness that reveals to us why we need to forgive those who have hurt us.
The death of Jesus is a reminder of the forgiveness God is willing to give to His enemies. In the face of such great love how can we hold on to an unforgiving spirit and the bitterness that consumes our heart?