Tag Archives: Ish-Bosheth

A Lesson in Abner

“May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 2 Samuel 3:9-10 (NIV)

Abner is one of the most fascinating characters in the unfolding drama of the conflict between the houses of Saul and David. Abner was Saul’s general, and second in command. As such, Abner had amassed tremendous power and influence. With Saul’s well-known mental health issues, it was likely Abner who provided stability, respect, and fear in the chain of command. Upon Saul’s death, it was Abner who quickly propped up the weaker younger brother of Jonathan, Ish-bosheth, as his puppet to maintain control of the northern tribes.

Abner served Saul and his family faithfully, but his ultimate service was always about himself.

It struck me as I read this morning that Abner was well aware God had anointed David king of Israel. The way he worded his threat to Ish-bosheth it would seem he even believed that David’s ascent to the throne was a divinely appointed certainty. Yet, Abner spent two decades fighting faithfully for the house of Saul because that was where his bread was buttered.

Today’s chapter gives us a clear picture of Abner’s character. Abner seems to have enjoyed the fruits of his position. Now we see that he so disrespected his former master and the son of Saul he made into his political marionette, that he felt it was his right to feast on the forbidden fruit of Saul’s harem. After all, who was going to stop him? When Ish-bosheth finds the guts to stand up to Abner and call him to account, Abner does what all power brokers do: he makes a power play. As the game of thrones continues in determining who will be King of Israel, Ish-Bosheth plays the trump card he holds in his hand and vows to deliver the northern tribes to David wrapped up with a bow.

Abner is Judas. The inner-circle confidant who is secretly pilfering things for himself, and willing to betray his master if it suits his personal agenda. Abner is Iago, the 2nd in command whom the commander shouldn’t trust. Abner is the one who knows God’s truth, but never submits to it unless it happens to dovetail with his duplicitous purposes.

As I meditate in the quiet this morning, I can’t help but recognize the Abner in me. David wrote in the lyric of one of his songs: “search me God…and see if there is any offensive way in me.” I’m kind of feeling that same spirit this morning. I can see in my own life the perpendicular lines of God’s way and my way. Along my life journey, I confess that I have had my own duplicitous moments. I have, at times, served with selfish motives.

I am reminded by today’s chapter of the difference between the man I desire to be, and the man I sometimes prove to be by my own words and actions. I’m reminded that I have still not arrived. I am reminded that I’m still in process. God, examine my heart and help me be less like Abner and more of a man after your own heart.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in April 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones (CaD 2 Sam 2) Wayfarer

Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah. 2 Samuel 2:4 (NIV)

Life gets messy. When individuals and complex systems of individuals are all navigating their disparate paths and personal agendas, the results are inevitably going to include conflict. Tracing David’s path from being anointed king as a young man and his ascension to the throne of Israel is a meandering path through some very messy personal and political terrain.

King Saul is dead, but that doesn’t mean that David’s path to the throne is now less messy. Just the opposite. Things are going to get even messier. David’s family belongs to the tribe of Judah, and with the death of Saul the men of Judah move quickly to anoint David as their king. There are 12 tribes in Israel, however, and Judah’s brash act of independence reveals a schism between Judah and the other tribes that foreshadows centuries of bloody civil unrest to come when the nation splits in two during the reign of David’s grandson.

David is now King of Judah and its vast southern territory. The remnants of Saul’s political machine are not, however, eager to lose power or cede control of the nation to Judah’s famous outlaw. David was, after all, the young man Saul had designated as #1 on his most wanted list. Saul’s general, Abner, has is own political agenda. Abner sets up Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth as King of Israel and, no doubt, his puppet. Let the game of thrones begin.

Today I am again reminded of how messy life can get even in the politics and power struggles of my relatively small circles of life and influence. We all find ourselves embroiled in the game of thrones for our own little systemic kingdoms. Even as time and events lead towards divine ends, this life journey is fraught with difficulties, dangers, toils, and snares both personal and corporate. History should teach us that this has always been the case east of Eden, but I find we humans are constantly surprised by the reality of it.

In midst of the mess I’ve found it helpful to spiritually focus on the basics:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love others.
  3. Seek God’s kingdom first

… and then to press on one step, one day, at a time in the right direction.

A Note to Readers
I’m taking a blogging sabbatical and will be re-publishing my chapter-a-day thoughts on David’s continued story in 2 Samuel while I’m take a little time off in order to focus on a few other priorities. Thanks for reading.
Today’s post was originally published in April 2014.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Playing by a Different Set of Rules

the head of ish boshethHow much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”
2 Samuel 4:11 (NIV)

Every human system, small or large, has its rules of behavior. Most often, they are unwritten. Even if there is some sort of written code of conduct, there are still unwritten rules that guide people’s behaviors. At home, on the playground, in the cafeteria, in the workplace, in church, and in our communities we learn to behave within the unwritten rules of the systems in which we live and breathe and have our being.

I don’t think we can quite imagine or comprehend exactly what life was like within the human systems of David’s day. Even reading in yesterday’s chapter of David’s many wives, children with those wives, and his demand of the return of his wife Michal like he was reclaiming a piece of property. It’s hard for us to comprehend living life in those rules.

One of the things I love about reading the stories of David is that he’s not some stereotypical hero who does everything perfectly. Quite the contrary, David is an extremely flawed human being who makes huge, costly mistakes – yet for all that he is still “a man after God’s own heart.” That gives me hope. I see David constantly striving to live by God’s rules even while he’s mired in the messy human systems of his day.

In the past few chapters we’ve read two instances of men who believe that they are getting in David’s good graces by killing David’s enemy and bringing the evidence to him. I have to believe that this was standard operating procedure of the unwritten rules of regional war and politics in David’s day. This was how local power brokers ruled. Kill my enemy for me, bring me evidence of it, and I’ll reward you richly. If you kill off the sons of my enemy then you’ve made my position even stronger (because there’s not a stray son out there plotting revenge … think Vito Corleone in The Godfather II). Kill my enemy, kill my enemies sons and you might even find yourself with a cushy position of power in my administration or army. That’s the way it works. Those are the unwritten rules.

But not for David. In these instances we see David playing by a different set of rules. In David’s eyes, Saul was still God’s anointed king. Jonathan was still his best friend. Saul was still the father of his best friend and Jonathan was still the son of God’s anointed king. In David’s eyes, God’s rules trump the unwritten rules of the local human system. You don’t lay your hands on God’s anointed – not even if you’re the one anointed to eventually take his place. You don’t kill the son of God’s anointed. Period.

Today I’m thinking about the unwritten rules of the human systems in which I live and breathe and have my being. Are there ways in which my words and behavior are unconsciously incongruent with God’s desire because I’m mindlessly behaving in the way I’ve been conditioned? Am I willing to play by a different set of rules when God’s desires run contrary to prevailing cultural mores?

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Life is Messy [Shocking]

Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah. 2 Samuel 2:4 (NIV)

Life gets messy. When individuals and complex systems of individuals are all navigating their disparate paths and personal agendas, the results are inevitably going to include conflict. Tracing David’s path from being anointed king as a young man and his ascension to the throne of Israel is a meandering path through some very messy personal and political terrain.

King Saul is dead, but that doesn’t mean that David’s path to the throne is now less messy. Just the opposite. Things are going to get even messier. David’s family belongs to the tribe of Judah, and with the death of Saul the men of Judah move quickly to anoint David as their king. There are 12 tribes in Israel, however, and Judah’s brash act of independence reveals a schism between Judah and the other tribes that foreshadows centuries of bloody civil unrest to come when the nation splits in two during the reign of David’s grandson.

David is now King of Judah and its vast southern territory. The remnants of Saul’s political machine are not, however, eager to lose power or cede control of the nation to Judah’s famous outlaw. David was, after all, the young man Saul had designated as #1 on his most wanted list. Saul’s general, Abner, has is own political agenda. Abner sets up Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth as King of Israel and, no doubt, his puppet. Let the games begin.

Today I am again reminded of how messy life can get. Even as time and events lead towards divine ends, the journey is fraught with difficulties, dangers, toils and snares both personal and corporate. History should teach us that this has always been the case east of Eden, but I find we humans constantly surprised by the reality of it. In midst of the mess I’ve found no other recourse than to spiritually focus on the basics:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love others.
  3. Seek God’s kingdom first

… and then to press on one step, one day, at a time in the right direction.

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