Vengeance is not mine – 2 Samuel 3. RBT Notes, 5th October

Abner was a powerful man, and it was maybe because he feared that power that Ish-Bosheth, Israel’s “sort-of King”, brought a trumped up charge against him (v.8). Abner has also been reading the times. Maybe he really was as outraged at the accusation brought against him as he claimed; perhaps, though, it was a convenient way for him to abandon his king and to go over to the clearly more powerful (and more God-honoured) king, David. Abner very quickly shows his loyalty and his usefulness, and the stage is set for a long and illustrious career in the king’s service (vv.17-21).
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Except it isn’t. Joab won’t forget his brother’s murder, and certainly won’t work alongside his murderer. So he kills him (vv.26-27). Notice how Joab is as rude and sceptical of his lord as Abner is of his old king, and probably just like Abner, he uses his apparent indignation to cloak his own agenda.
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No one is deceived, not King David (v.28-29), nor the historian (v.30). David goes out of his way to show the people that he had no part in Abner’s death, and certainly no desire for it (vv.31-39).
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Killing is sometimes very easy, especially when it’s killing by attitudes, or words. Moral indignation is even easier. Christians are experts at it, as we weigh just how much we’ve been wronged (so we think), and assess how far we can push our behaviour. Shame on us. Joab’s efforts ended in his shame. Ours will, too. Vengeance really is the Lord’s.
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A Prayer to Pray
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Lord God, when I really look at myself, then I truly understand that I’m the proudest person I know. Lord, I nurse my grievances, and feed them with the poison of my indignation. Enough. Teach me humility, and the power of forgiveness, however costly. As much as it depends on me, help me to live at peace with all men. Amen.

The Prince of Peace – and His enemies – 2 Samuel 2. RBT Notes, 4th October

A king must have his kingdom, but everyone knows that people  don’t instinctively like to be ruled. David is now seeking to gather a divided people under his rule. He must bring those who already follow him back into the land, and unite them with those who had been loyal to Saul. No small order! David is anointed by his own people (v.4), and boldly begins by seeking those who’ve shown great loyalty to Saul (vv.4-7).
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Opposition is all around. People don’t want God’s King, not then, and not now. When Saul’s and David’s men meet, Abner is clearly itching for a fight. He gets one, with devastating effect. Asahel and others lose their lives, and the hatred and death escalates right to all-out war (vv.12-32). This is a sad, ugly chapter.
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The struggles of the verses are those played out again and again wherever God’s Kingdom is declared. Most sadly of all, the enemies of the Kingdom are so often those who claim to be part of it. “I want men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands in prayer without anger of disputing”, urges the Apostle Paul (1 Tim. 2.8). Why lift hands in prayer? Because men naturally fail to pray, and raise unholy voices (or even fists) in argument. Our chapter shows us how quickly fights happen, and our hearts betray the same warlike tendencies. Our King is a peacemaker, and His grace teaches us to go and do likewise.
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So hope, as always, in found in Jesus. He is the true king, and He comes (like David) offering peace. Trust Him, imitate Him, honour Him. You will find rest for your souls.
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A Prayer to Pray
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Lord Jesus, my heart is proud, fiercely proud. You are humble and gentle in heart, even as the Mighty Lord and King. Teach me to lay aside my anger, and my weapons. Make me a servant of Your peace. Amen.

Strength to Love – 2 Samuel 1. RBT Notes, 3rd October

David is heartbroken. He’s shattered by the news which comes to him that Saul is dead. The man he served and loved – and was violently persecuted by – was, afterall, the Lord’s anointed (v.14). That belief kept David from harming Saul over the years when David was a hunted fugitive. Now he’s told that Saul and Jonathan, David’s closest friend, are dead. It’s obvious that the Amalekite is seeking a reward for not only the news, but for the slaying of Saul. The reward he gets is his own death at David’s command (vv.15-16). David then sinks in grief, and also celebrates God’s goodness, in the lives of these two completely different men – murderous Saul and loyal Jonathan (vv.17-27).

“Weep for Saul” is the King’s command (v.24). That must astonish us. Saul wanted to kill David. David refused to kill Saul. No revenge, no self-defence? The world may call it cowardice, but the Bible shows it for what it is: strength, courage and faith. He will bless, and not curse.

Another King commands His followers, “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5.44). Jesus loved and gave himself for twelve men who were to abandon Him, including one who betrayed Him. He loved them, taught them, washed their feet and bled for them. Can you love, even love those who hurt you, humiliate you, ignore you or wound you in other ways? The King says you can and you must. His grace means that you will. And that life alone is the life of true freedom and peace.

 

A Prayer to Pray

Father, my heart is narrow and hard, and too often burns only with the fire of self-righteousness and revenge. Forgive me. Empower me, to love, to forgive, to serve, to persevere, all dependent upon Your grace. Make me like Your Servant Son, strong only in the working-out of forgiving love, in the power of Your grace. Amen.