In yesterday’s reading Saul and his battle-capable sons died in battle. It was a tragic end for such a promising beginning. But God has a new thing planned for His people, David’s kingdom.
After David had recovered the women, children, and things from the Amalekite raiders, and returned to Ziklag, he received the news about Saul and Jonathan. A survivor of the battle had run to David with the news. Although you’d expect David to be relieved at Saul’s death, it wasn’t like that at all. Perhaps it was because of his covenant with Jonathan, perhaps it was because Saul was the LORD’s anointed, perhaps it was because David really was a spiritual giant, but David demonstrated a sincere grief over Saul’s death. When David asked how he knew that Saul had been killed, the Amalekite told the story of how he had personally delivered the coup de grâce on a dying Saul to save him from agony in his death throes. The Amalekite even brought the crown and bracelets of Saul in proof of his death. Perhaps he had thought that David would be pleased, but instead he was greatly displeased that this man had raised his hand against the LORD’s anointed — he had him killed immediately. And one may legitimately wonder what this may say about euthanasia.
David then wrote, sang, and taught a song to the tribe of Judah as a tribute and lamentation about the death of Saul and Jonathan. Toward the end of the song, David specifically addressed the death of Jonathan:
How have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan is slain on your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me. You love to me was more wonderful Than the love of women. (2 Sam. 1:25,26)
What a marvelous, enviable friendship!
But although Saul was dead, his dynasty wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel. Abner, Saul’s right-hand man, took Ish-bosheth — perhaps one of Saul’s younger sons — east of the Jordan River to Mahanaim and crowned him king. All of Israel, except for Judah, tentatively followed Ish-bosheth as king — while Judah followed David, setting up a rivalry. But when your kingdom is new and shaky a weak king is likely to become paranoid, and one day Ish-bosheth accused Abner of committing adultery with Ish-bosheth’s wife. In the political world of kingdoms, this was not just an accusation of adultery, it was an accusation of treason, that Abner was trying to overthrow Ish-bosheth. Abner is so insulted by this accusation that he decides to hand the kingdom over to David. He consults with David and he consults with the elders of Israel, but just before the deal goes through, Joab rashly kills Abner to avenge his brother, Asahel, killed in battle by Abner.
This send shockwaves throughout the kingdom and David once again shows his class and diplomatic acumen by mourning Abner’s death and making it clear that he had nothing to do with it. This all was received well by the rest of Israel and set David up for future events.
One interesting thing that didn’t happen in this portion of the story is that Joab was not punished for killing Abner. You’d think that David, being king, could command that Joab be found and summarily executed for killing Abner. But Joab, as captain of David’s army, appears to have garnered more popularity and loyalty than David, because David’s comment about it is simply, “The sons of Zeruiah are too difficult for me. May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil” (2 Sam. 3:39). Not punishing an evildoer will have unfortunate consequences for David — Joab is the one who kills Absalom later.
Now, of course, providing consequences isn’t always our job. It’s called revenge in most places in Scripture. But there are times when it is our duty — and being a king is one of them.
“for [the government] is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4)
Being a parent is another place where punishment and justice is given to us to mete out. Allowing evildoers to get away with things, isn’t good for the long run. David had to pay dearly for his lack of action.
Where’s the guy who was ready to take on Goliath? Had David begun to rely more on politics and army numbers than on God? His psalms are so full of faith in some places and so full of fear of enemies in other places. I guess he’s a lot like us, isn’t he. Sometimes full of faith and fire! Sometimes full of fear and flight. It’s hard to remain person of strong, fiery faith over long periods. It takes preparation, spiritual nourishment, and a close relationship with the Lord. On balance, David was a man of great faith, a man after God’s own heart, but sometimes he stumbled.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.