What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Not Straying From True Obedience

Abner’s folly was starting a fight (2 Samuel 2; see last week’s article). But that wasn’t the end of the story. During the chase across the countryside, Abner killed one of Joab’s brothers, in self-defense on the field of battle. This set into motion a scenario in which Joab perverted the Torah law to accomplish his own agenda.
Joab’s brother, Asahel, pursued Abner, and even when Abner stopped running and yelled to Asahel to stop because he (Abner) did not want to have to kill him, Asahel kept coming after Abner. Asahel is described as “fleet-footed as a gazelle in an open field” (2 Samuel 2:18) so Asahel was sure to catch up to Abner. Abner, after warning Asahel to stop, used Asahel’s own speed and carelessness to stab him and Asahel fell dead. When Joab found out, he became filled with blood lust and determined to avenge Asahel’s death. That’s the background needed to get to my point from 2 Samuel 3.
In chapter 3, through a series of events, Abner approaches David with the proposition of becoming allies. David agrees to talk it over with Abner in Hebron (David’s headquarters at this time). During this meeting, either by design or by happenstance, Joab is out on a raid. When Joab returns to Hebron, with all kinds of plunder to give to David, he was feeling pretty good about his position in David’s court. Then he hears of the agreement, treaty, David made with Abner in his absence. Joab becomes enraged and rails at David. Joab then sends messengers to chase Abner down (Abner was not far from Hebron at this time) to ask Abner to come and meet with him. It’s important to note at this point that Hebron was one of the Levite sanctuary cities set up in the Torah (Old Testament Law) for those who had committed manslaughter or an accidental killing. Death in a battle would come under this category.
Joab lured Abner to just outside the city. Between the outer and inner gates of Hebron to be exact. So close to sanctuary, but not actually in it. Joab took action and killed Abner for the death of his brother. Or that’s the excuse he used. There were two problems with this excuse. First, Joab claimed it was according to the Law that he avenged his brother’s death; however, the Law made exceptions for those killing in battle or in self-defense so Abner should not have been eligible for avenge killing. Second, Joab was also experiencing some jealousy and self-centered fear that Abner, with his treaty with David, would replace him as second in command in David’s kingdom. Generally speaking, it was the top military man in a Middle Eastern nation that was considered next in line should something happen to the king.
Basically, Joab twisted the Scriptures to his desires. Now we can ridicule Joab for doing this, but we need to be careful. I, for one, have misapplied Scripture to fit my desires. I didn’t necessarily do it knowingly, but the way I interpreted Scripture at various points in my life, led me to deviate from God’s plans. For instance, I do not always remember to turn away from temptations or acknowledge God’s way as being better. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” How many times do I allow myself to watch unwholesome television or movies? How many times do I excuse it as harmless fun? And, how many times even when I am convicted by going ahead and participating in viewing things that are in bad taste or contrary to God’s guidelines and fail to be truly repentant of it and do something different instead, do I do it anyway? I often say, perverting the intent of God’s Word, “Well God will forgive me, and cleanse me from all wickedness” (1 John 1:9)?
I could give other examples in my life that I’ve not handled accurately the Word of truth. I think, if you’re honest, you could think of some in your own life as well. Joab paid a price (which comes out in the following chapters of 2 Samuel), and there will be a price for us to pay, also, if we do not repent and work hard at applying the Word of God accurately to our lives.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Abner's Folly

Today I’m looking at 2 Samuel, chapter 2. This chapter starts out with David consulting the Lord about his next steps. There’s a principle in this section about going to God in prayer and then moving out to let God do His work through us, but I’m going to look at another portion of the passage, with a different (but overlapping) principle.
We find out that Abner (Saul’s military leader) tries to establish Israel under the authority of Saul’s remaining son, Ishbosheth. There is quite a bit of speculation as to why Ishbosheth wasn’t on the battlefield with Saul and Saul’s other sons, but for reasons not given in Scripture Ishbosheth did not go to war. So, Abner sets Ishbosheth up as the new king of Israel. This is the beginning to an Israelite civil war between Abner’s (Ishbosheth’s) territories and men, and David’s territories and men.
In the course of time, a faction of Abner’s military rest by a pool, the pool at Gibeon. At the same time, Joab (David’s military leader) had a faction of David’s army also camp on the other side of the same pool. What were they to do? No one is said to have gone to God in prayer. Scripture does not say they consulted priests. So, out of Abner’s own mind, without input from God, he proposes a plan to Joab. “Abner said to Joab, ‘If it’s all right with you, let’s have the young men get up and fight it out between themselves while we watch’ . . .” (2 Samuel 2:14, CJB). The NASB says that they would “hold a contest.” This is the same type of contest there was between the Philistine representative, Goliath, and the Israelite representative, David. We know how that turned out . . . David won but the Philistines did not surrender as agreed upon. The end of this contest does not resolve the conflict either. Each side put up twelve men. As Abner and Joab and the rest of their armies watched, “Each one grabbed his partner by the head and drove his sword into his side, so that they fell down together . . .” (verse 16). The contest was inconclusive as all the champions on both sides died and a general battle broke out between the armies. Abner’s army was routed and chased across the countryside.
The principle that struck me was that we should be careful about picking fights. Being the aggressor, as Abner was, may have disastrous results. Abner obviously thought he had the upper hand, but he failed to recognize God’s role in the battle. As David with his army were the anointed of God, they would have a distinct advantage even if their army looked smaller or less experienced. Bible commentator Matthew Henry gave the following cross-reference to the events in this passage: Proverbs 25:8. “Do not go out hastily to argue your case; Otherwise, what will you do in the end, When your neighbor puts you to shame” (NASB).
I took this as a warning to me. I simply thought, “Don’t ‘create’ strife with the people in my life; it could come back to bite me.” I know that David eventually wins the civil war, but this battle may have been avoided if Abner had not been so quick to start something. What battles in my life could have been avoided if I didn’t start the argument? I’m sure there are some, which I conveniently don’t remember. But now I’ve been warned. I do not have to start things in the future.