Mine Own Familiar Friend
There are few people who can claim to have been betrayed as often and as treacherously as King David. He first experienced betrayal at the hands of King Saul. Fresh back from his victory over Goliath in the Valley of Elah, he might have expected some form of preferential treatment in the King’s palace. Instead he heard the whistle of the King’s spear as it flew past his head and thudded into the wall behind.
Then there is the curious case of his military commander Joab. Joab was one of those characters you could never be quite sure about. Was he with you, or against you? On a number of occasions he assumed the authority of the royal office, where no such authority had been granted, persistently choosing to undermine David. Each time it ended in disaster.
Absalom was an even more curious case. The Son of the king and rightful heir to the throne, yet he couldn’t wait, and following an unsavoury incident with Amnon his brother, he ended up ostracised and out of favour. The aforementioned Joab involves himself, supposedly seeking a resolution to the standoff. Yet no resolution was found acceptable to Absalom and so he takes matters into his own hands and performs the equivalent of a coup d’état. It didn’t go well for either David or Absalom.
But the one who inspired David to write a Psalm (41:9) was a man called Ahitophel. He was described as being ‘David’s counsellor’, presumably noted for his intellect and perception. Imagine David’s reaction when word filtered up through the ranks; ‘Ahitophel is among the conspirators with Absalom!’ ‘My counsellor, my confidante, my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me!’ bemoans the king. The one who had been responsible for imparting wisdom, whether military or otherwise, had turned his back and thrown his lot in with the traitorous usurper.
Over a millennia later, ‘Great David’s greater Son’ knew what it was to be betrayed. John starts his gospel by telling us; ‘he was in the world, the world was made by him, the world knew him not’ (John 1:10) and ’He came to his own and his own received him not’ (John 1:11). This is bad enough, but as the Lord speaks to His disciples in the upper room he quotes this exact scripture with reference to the specific act of Judas. Creation as a whole, the Jews as a race, but now Judas specifically is indicted in the treachery of betraying the Son of Man; ‘but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born’ (Matt. 26:24). Imagine the poignancy as the Lord looks tenderly at His disciples and says ‘The Scripture will be fulfilled, He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me’ (John 13:18).
Maybe you feel betrayed. Most of us will do at some point. As we remember Him again today, keep in mind that He suffered the extremity of the human experience on our behalf.