Monday, 21 April 2014

(112) April 22: 2 Samuel 1-3 & Luke 18:1-17

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note what we learn from David’s response to these events.

To ponder:
The same author wrote both books of Samuel. So the contradiction between this account of Saul’s death and that ending 1 Samuel is intended. In short, the Amalekite who comes to David in Ziklag is lying. He pretends to have killed Saul, and brings David Saul’s emblems of kingship thinking this would gain favour. David’s response shows he in no way wished for Saul’s death out of ambition for the throne. He and his men weep and fast, and David has the duplicitous Amalekite (one of those Saul had been fighting) executed for killing the LORD’s anointed. David’s song then stresses the genuineness of his grief. God’s people are to leave their advancement in God’s hands, never seeking it by underhand means. Moreover, like David, and supremely Christ, they are not to seek greatness in and of itself, but service, by doing what is right.
            David’s integrity in not grasping after the throne is then seen in enquiring of God as to whether to go to “one of the towns of Judah,” rather than just making the most of the opportunity. God directs him to Hebron where he is crowned, but only as king over Judah. He then sends messages of blessing to Jabesh Gilead for burying Saul. The town is outside of Judah, showing David saw himself as the king of all Israel. As Abner, Saul’s commander then has Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth crowned king over the rest of Israel, we see the nation split into two kingdoms. The great need is therefore to be united under one, so the nation might flourish under God’s rule.
What follows is a continuance of the rivalry between the “houses” of Saul and David. There is an integrity in Abner here, who seems to want peace between the two groups. His suggestion in 2v14 may have been intended to prevent all out civil war by having champions fight instead of armies. But it ended in a battle in which David’s army is victorious, and Abner, with much reluctance, is forced to kill Ashael, the brother of David’s commander Joab. As Joab and his other brother then pursue Abner and the two forces line up to fight again, Abner urges Joab to stop because “it will end in bitterness” and involves David’s men “pursuing their brothers.”
Joab is not as upright. We learn that the war continued a long time with Saul’s house weakening and David’s strengthening, and sons being born, raising the possibility of a dynasty. At this point, Ish-Bosheth accuses Abner of sleeping with his father’s concubine, and so making a play for his throne. The wording suggests this was a false accusation, perhaps intended to weaken Abner because he was gaining political strength (3v6). In response, Abner makes an agreement with David “to bring Israel over” to him. David requires the return of his wife Michal (Saul’s daughter), whom he loved (1 Sam 18v20), but who would also affirm his legitimacy as king. Strangely, Ish-Bosheth takes her from her husband for David. Abner then urges the elders of Israel, who seem to have wanted David to be king for some time, to transfer their allegiance, speaking to Benjamin (Saul’s tribe) personally. He subsequently promises to “assemble all Israel” for David who sends him away in peace.
However Joab tells David Abner is acting deceptively and kills him for killing his brother. This threatens the uniting of Israel that Abner was arranging, and would have been assumed by many to have been done on David’s orders. In various ways David therefore stresses he and his kingdom are innocent (3v28-25). We read the people “were pleased” with this and all David did. But further problems from Joab and his brother are hinted at (3v39).
These events encourage the Christian reader to be like Abner, seeking peace within the church, rather than Joab, by breeding hostility, rivalry and disunity.

Praying it home:
Thank God for the genuine love there is between true Christians from differing sections of the church. Pray for the church to be increasingly united, but under Christ, and so united around the truth of the gospel.

Thinking further:
To read the NIV introduction to 2 Samuel click here.

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