Clash of kings

Slices

Prepare

Worship Jesus before you read further, ‘who, being in very nature God … made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant’ (Philippians 2:6,7).
 

Bible passage

2 Samuel 2:1–17

David anointed king over Judah

2 In the course of time, David enquired of the Lord. ‘Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?’ he asked.

The Lord said, ‘Go up.’

David asked, ‘Where shall I go?’

‘To Hebron,’ the Lord answered.

So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.

When David was told that it was the men from Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul, he sent messengers to them to say to them, ‘The Lord bless you for showing this kindness to Saul your master by burying him. May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favour because you have done this. Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the people of Judah have anointed me king over them.’

War between the houses of David and Saul

Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel.

10 Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David. 11 The length of time David was king in Hebron over Judah was seven years and six months.

12 Abner son of Ner, together with the men of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon. 13 Joab son of Zeruiah and David’s men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side.

14 Then Abner said to Joab, ‘Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.’

‘All right, let them do it,’ Joab said.

15 So they stood up and were counted – twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. 16 Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.

17 The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David’s men.

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I marvel at David’s wisdom here. How many of us have ever made a bad decision immediately after a big high or having suffered a big loss? Instead, David’s instinct is to seek the Lord rather than to rashly make any significant decision (v 1). Again, we see David’s integrity through his reaction to the news that the faithful men of Jabesh Gilead had buried Saul (v 4). He genuinely had not sought the kingship for personal gain or fulfilment as shown by his blessing and commitment to do good to them (vs 5,6). Is there anything in your life that you are currently pursuing too keenly and perhaps putting ahead of God? 

During some situations, do you ever get the feeling, ‘This is not going to end well…’? 2 Samuel 2 is exhibit A: opposing sides, young men, swords, competition… ‘The battle that day was very fierce’ (v 17) is probably a masterful understatement. This tragic story is repeated around the world: those in power vie for position and control – and people suffer and even die. It’s likely that Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, was a puppet for Abner who installed him as king (vs 8,9). How different to the way that Jesus taught us to serve rather than ‘lord it over’ others (see Matthew 20:25,26). 

Author
James Davies

Respond

‘Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves’ (Romans 12:10). Who can you ‘honour’ today? 

Deeper Bible study

‘Jesus was killed like Saul, so he could reign like David.’1 Lord, teach me to follow your lead, to search after you wholeheartedly and with purity of heart.

After Saul’s tragic fall and with his son (Ish-Bosheth) ruling Israel, God’s people are divided. Many are loyal to the house of Judah, others are still loyal to Saul’s line. But God is moving, as he always does with his people, just beyond our comprehension or time span. This passage opens ‘In the course of time ...’ How hard it is, when we desire God’s plans and next steps, to face the frustration of preparation and the fullness of time. David’s patience shows his heart and obedience. He asks God, ‘Shall I go?’ I am sure that, over the waiting period, he would often have prayed, ‘Lord, what now?’ Eventually the Lord says, ‘Go.’ Again, when many would have seen ‘Go up’ as enough, David once more seeks the direction of God: ‘Where shall I go?’ (v 1).

This is a challenge to us, as churches and individuals: do we seek God’s direction when we hit the impasse, or do we ask it before we set out? David is sent to Hebron and he goes – obviously, we may say; but are there times when we know God is sending us to pray, speak or act for him but we close our hearts, allowing the flesh to quench the Spirit?

Hebron was important as the resting place of Abraham and his family and as the city given to Caleb as his inheritance.2 This was a special place for the people of God, as they sought after God’s heart, through trials and triumphs. This was home. David and his men were no longer fugitives. His loyal men, too, had suffered, but now they would reign with him. Holding unswervingly to God’s way is often hard. Be encouraged – he is faithful.

What are your plans for today? Do they coincide with God’s? Have you asked him, as ‘Lord’, for the day’s directions, warnings and promises: ‘Where shall I go, Lord?’ 

1 H Thomas and J Greear, Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Samuel, Holman, 2016, p176  2Josh 14:13 

Author
Andy Robinson

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Read the Bible in a year: 2 Chronicles 29,30; Ephesians 6

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