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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 7/28/2015

Robert Chen

Dear Church:

2 SAMUEL 3:6-21

6While there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul. 7Now Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ishbaal said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?” 8The words of Ishbaal made Abner very angry; he said, “Am I a dog’s head for Judah? Today I keep showing loyalty to the house of your father Saul, to his brothers, and to his friends, and have not given you into the hand of David; and yet you charge me now with a crime concerning this woman. 9So may God do to Abner and so may he add to it! For just what the LORD has sworn to David, that will I accomplish for him, 10to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul, and set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to Beer-sheba.” 11And Ishbaal could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him.

12Abner sent messengers to David at Hebron, saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make your covenant with me, and I will give you my support to bring all Israel over to you.” 13He said, “Good; I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you: you shall never appear in my presence unless you bring Saul’s daughter Michal when you come to see me.” 14Then David sent messengers to Saul’s son Ishbaal, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, to whom I became engaged at the price of one hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” 15Ishbaal sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. 16But her husband went with her, weeping as he walked behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.

17Abner sent word to the elders of Israel, saying, “For some time past you have been seeking David as king over you. 18Now then bring it about; for the LORD has promised David: Through my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from all their enemies.” 19Abner also spoke directly to the Benjaminites; then Abner went to tell David at Hebron all that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin were ready to do.

20When Abner came with twenty men to David at Hebron, David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. 21Abner said to David, “Let me go and rally all Israel to my lord the king, in order that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David dismissed Abner, and he went away in peace.

After Saul and his three sons (including Jonathan) die during the Battle of Mount Gilboa (1 Sam. 31:1), Abner, the Captain of Saul's Army, proclaims Ishbaal (Saul's fourth son) King of Israel. However, one of the 12 tribes of Israel -- Judah -- secedes from the rule of the House of Saul and aligns itself with the House of David.


David's faction eventually prevails over Ishbaal, but the war doesn't end until Abner joins David.


In very brief terms, this is the summary of the main actions.


The devotional thought I want us to consider this morning is the question, How did all of Israel come under David's rule? Did the leaders of the Twelve Tribes discern God's hand on David? Did the leaders recognize YHWH's will for the monarchical transition from the House of Saul to the House of David?


The answer to these questions -- No, not exactly. It was not discernment or recognition of God's will, but brutal battle. In particular, the shift of power was based upon offense and betrayal. Abner, the former captain of Saul's army, gets accused by Ishbaal that he (Abner) has been sleeping with one of Saul's concubines. Abner is terribly offended by the accusation and decides to switch sides, changing his allegiance to David. Offense and betrayal turned the tide.


In answering the question, How did all of Israel come under David's rule? we end up telling a story mixed with sinful motivations and actions. We might think that God's will (in this case, all of Israel coming under David) would be filled with pure motives and saintly behavior but in actuality nothing of the sort happened.


What are we to think?


God's providence is manifested through good and evil intentions and actions. God, in other words, uses the evil intent and actions of fallen people to get His will accomplished. God allows these fallen people to choose and act out their choices. God permits them. These folks are fully responsible. God is not coercing them or manipulating them to choose one way or another. The choices and actions are seen by God and in many places God simply gives these folks the full reign to their power of choice. (Sometimes, God does intervene. Striking Nabal dead is one example of God intervening in a drastic way.)


Is there a comforting thought to any of this?


Yes. We are comforted in knowing that whatever the circumstance of our lives, God's providence is at work. Now this does not entail that we become passive. David still had to fight his battles. David did not say, "Well, the Lord is ultimately in control and His providence will work itself out. Therefore, I'm going to sit in this cave and let God deliver the people to me." No. David, while trusting that YHWH will ultimately hand over the kingly reign to him, still lived with an acute awareness that he had to do his part in being prayerful and active. We would even say, proactive, taking initiative in many circumstances. So belief in divine providence does not entail human passivity. Belief in divine providence entails active engagement and trust on our part. The rest, the Lord will take care of.


Let's pray: Father God, we confess your continuing, shaping, guiding, leading involvement in our lives. In short, we confess you are provident -- sovereign over all things. We confess that our lives are in your hands and that for the sake of your glory and for our ultimate joy, you will allow certain outcomes which at the time seem painful. We confess that your will and love are the ultimate determiners of our lives. Help us also to do our part by praying and by being active/proactive as we discern your will. Help us to take up our own "battles" with the weapons of spiritual warfare; and that we'll also find peace in you. In Jesus' name, amen.