Lord of Break-Throughs.

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there. And he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim. And the Philistines left their idols there, and David and his men carried them away.

And the Philistines came up yet again and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. And when David inquired of the Lord, he said, “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” And David did as the Lord commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer. – 2 Samuel 5:17-25 ESV

Upon hearing word that David had been crowned king of Israel, the Philistines determined to attack him before he could establish his reign and gather strength. It seems that while he had been king over the single tribe of Judah, they had been content to leave him alone, seeing him as little to no threat. But now that he had unified all 12 tribes, he had gotten their attention. So they came in search for him. Having just taken the city of Jerusalem, and not having had time to fortify it, David and his men made their way to their stronghold. We’re not told where this stronghold was. It could have been the cave of Adullam, near Hebron. Or it could be a reference to the fortress of Zion (verse 7). Most likely, David returned to his original stronghold in the wilderness. It would have made sense for David to return to familiar ground and draw the Philistines away from Jerusalem and the other tribes of Israel. The Valley of Rephaim was southwest of Jerusalem and closer to Hebron and the border between Israel and the Philistines.

Before attempting to do battle with the Philistines, David sought the counsel of God. He wanted to know two things: Should he fight with the Philistines and, if he did, whether or not he would be successful. David could have easily assumed that war with the Philistines was inevitable and simply marched into battle without seeking any word from God. He could have rationalized that, as the king of Israel, doing battle with the enemies of Israel was his duty. It came with the job description. But instead of acting rashly or presumptuously,  David turned to God. He wanted God’s blessing and approval. But more than anything, He wanted God’s help. And God assured David that He would be with him and give him victory over the Philistines. And after defeating the Philistines, David name the place of the battle Baal-perazim, which literally means, “the Lord of breaking through.” David explains the meaning of the name when he says, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood” (2 Samuel 5:20 ESV).

The victory was so quick and decisive that the Philistines abandoned their idols on the battle field. Their gods had been worthless because they were lifeless. So David and his men gathered them up and burned them (1 Chronicles 14:12).

But while the Philistines had lost the battle, they were not giving up the war. They gathered once again in the Valley of Rephaim. And again, David sought the counsel of God. This time, God gave David different instructions, commanding him to take his troops and prepare for a rear action against the Philistines. And God told David to wait until he heard “the sound of marching” in the tops of the trees under which they were taking cover. This was to be God’s sign to go into battle. David did just as God commanded and, once again, he handily defeated the Philistines that day.

These two victories had been God’s doing. Yes, David and his men had to fight, but it was God who gave them success. David’s naming of the first battleground, “the Lord of breaking through” provides us with insight into David’s perception of the events of that day. It had been God who had broken through his enemies like a flood. David would experience other victories like this one. And with each win over his enemies, David would grow in his faith and confidence in God. This dependence upon God for aid in his battles is reflected in his psalms.

God’s way is perfect.
    All the Lord’s promises prove true.
    He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
For who is God except the Lord?
    Who but our God is a solid rock?
God arms me with strength,
    and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
    he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
You have given me your shield of victory.
    Your right hand supports me;
    your help has made me great. – Psalm 18:30-35 NLT

Praise the Lord, who is my rock.
    He trains my hands for war
    and gives my fingers skill for battle.
He is my loving ally and my fortress,
    my tower of safety, my rescuer.
He is my shield, and I take refuge in him.
    He makes the nations submit to me. – Psalm 144:1-2 NLT

David’s break-throughs were God’s doing. His victories were the direct results of his reliance upon God. God didn’t win the battles without David. He won the battles using David as His preferred agent, His divinely chosen instrument to accomplish His will. And God has chosen us, believers in Jesus Christ, to act as His agents of change and spiritual army to bring about His victories on this earth. But as Paul reminds us, we are not fighting against flesh and blood.

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. – Ephesians 6:10-13 NLT

God has provided us with spiritual armor. He has equipped us with spiritual power in the form of the Holy Spirit. He has assured us of victory over our enemy. But we must fight according to His terms while utilizing His strategies. We must seek God’s will regarding the battles we face. As Paul reminds us, we must “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere” (Ephesians 6:18 NLT). David was victorious because He sought the will of God. He won because God gave him a break-through against his enemy. The same thing will be true for us, as long as we turn to God, rely upon God, and do what God commands us to do. Attempting to do battle for God, but without His permission and help is doomed to failure, no matter how well-intentioned we might be.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Different Set of Standard

And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house. And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David. And these are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet. – 2 Samuel 5:10-16 ESV

Verses 11-12 appear as almost a parenthetical statement, but are intended to provide further proof of David’s increasing control and power over Israel. Hiram, the king of Tyre reigned from 980-947 B.C., so that would mean that his gift of cedar trees, carpenters and masons would have been much later in David’s reign, long after he had established Jerusalem as his capital. But they give evidence of the growing recognition of David as the rightful king of Israel. News of his crowning as king over all of Israel had spread. As we shall see in the next section of this same chapter, even the Philistines had heard the news and would try to do something about it. Only, they would not come bearing gifts or offering to construct David a palace. But more about that tomorrow.

The interesting thing in these verses is the statement that says, “David knew that the Lor had established him as king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel” (2 Samuel 5:12 ESV). David was fully aware that his reign had been God’s doing, from beginning to end. Every phase of his life, from his original anointing by Samuel up until this moment, had been God’s doing. And David also knew that his ascension to the throne of Israel had not been for his own sake, but for the sake of the people of Israel. He had been made king by God so that he might rule the people of God justly and righteously. He was God’s hand-picked agent, His earthly representative, chosen to care for and protect His people. David fully understood his divine role, later putting his thoughts in words in the form of a psalm:

How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord!
    He shouts with joy because you give him victory.
For you have given him his heart’s desire;
    you have withheld nothing he requested. Interlude

You welcomed him back with success and prosperity.
    You placed a crown of finest gold on his head.
He asked you to preserve his life,
    and you granted his request.
    The days of his life stretch on forever.
Your victory brings him great honor,
    and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty.
You have endowed him with eternal blessings
    and given him the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord.
    The unfailing love of the Most High will keep him from stumbling. – Psalm 21:1-7 NLT

.And yet, even with David’s awareness of his God-ordained role and his complete dependence upon God’s good favor for his reign to be successful, we see that David still had the capacity to disobey the very One who made his kingship possible. Verse 13 provides a stark reminder that David had a dark side. And it is not something we are to overlook or ignore. The author could have left it out, but under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this less-attractive aspect of David’s life was included. It simply says, “And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David” (2 Samuel 5:13 ESV). It would be easy to read this as just another indication of David’s growing power and significance. For any other king of any other nation, that would probably be an accurate interpretation. Except that David is NOT just another king, and Israel is far from just another nation. David is God’s hand-picked ruler over His chosen people. And as such, David answered to a higher authority and was held to a higher standard. We can’t forget what God had told the people of Israel regarding the day when they asked to have a king.

“The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.

“When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel. ”– Deuteronomy 17:17-20 NLT

God’s king was not to be like all the other kings. He was to operate according to a different set of standards. What was acceptable and expected for other kings of other nations was not okay for David. Other kings might be able to use their power and authority to justify all kinds of self-satisfying, self-promoting actions, but not David. And yet, we see David continuing to multiply wives for himself, in direct disobedience to the command of God.

The second part of the Deuteronomy passage provides an important element of God’s command for His king. He was to be a man who knew well the words of God. He was to keep it before himself at all times. He was to have the instructions of God read to himself daily. Why? So he would learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. David wasn’t free to approach God’s commands cafeteria-style, choosing those that seemed most attractive and ignoring the ones he didn’t like. He was to obey them ALL. That included God’s commands regarding the taking of many wives. Because God knew that the king’s disobedience to that command would ultimately result in the distancing of the king’s heart from God.

One of the things David failed to recognize was that his reign was setting the standard for future kings. What he did, they would do. Future generations of Israelite kings would follow his lead and many would take his small acts of disobedience and magnify them. What David did in moderation, his heirs would do to excess. Even David’s construction of a personal palace, with the help of King Hiram, would prove to set a precedence for future kings and God would have strong words them.

And the Lord says, “What sorrow awaits Jehoiakim,
    who builds his palace with forced labor.
He builds injustice into its walls,
    for he makes his neighbors work for nothing.
    He does not pay them for their labor.
He says, ‘I will build a magnificent palace
    with huge rooms and many windows.
I will panel it throughout with fragrant cedar
    and paint it a lovely red.’
But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!
    Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink.
But he was just and right in all his dealings.
    That is why God blessed him.
He gave justice and help to the poor and needy,
    and everything went well for him.
Isn’t that what it means to know me?”
    says the Lord.
“But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty!
    You murder the innocent,
    oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly.” – Jeremiah 22:13-17 NLT

David’s reign was in its early stages, and each and every step he took and decision he made at this early juncture would prove to be critical. His decisions would have long-term ramifications. Even reading the list of sons born to him by his growing harem of wives indicate that David’s actions had future implications. There, nestled discretely in the list of sons is the name of Solomon, the very one who would follow David as king of Israel. And he would prove to be his father’s son, in more ways than one.

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. – 1 Kings 11:1-4 ESV

David was God’s king. But he didn’t always rule God’s way. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am God’s son, His heir, but that doesn’t mean I always live like one. Obedience is the true mark of sonship. Fearing God begins with obeying God. Even Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15 NLT). The apostle John took it a step further, writing, “And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments” (1 John 2:3 NLT). The greatest proof of David’s love for God would be found in his obedience to the commands of God. And the same thing holds true for us today. Love without obedience is hypocrisy. Claiming to love God while continuing to disobey God reflect a love of self, not a love of God. And every one of us, just like David, face this danger every day of our lives.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A New King and a New Capital.

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.”And David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him. – 2 Samuel 5:1-10 ESV

“And they anointed David king over Israel.” The great day finally arrived. It had not been without its difficulties and delays. There had probably been moments when David felt like it would never happen. It was in those moments of doubt that David had been tempted to take matters into his own hands and speed up the process. But the will of God can’t be rushed. Our impatience and subsequent impulsive attempts to help God out, will never cause God to alter His timing or the outcome He has in mind. In most cases, it will simply complicate things, making our wait seem even longer and the circumstances surrounding our lives even harder. But the day finally arrived when David was crowned king over all of Israel – all 12 tribes. The elders of Israel, representing the 11 other tribes (because Judah had already anointed David king) went to Hebron and formally announced their recognition of David as the king of all Israel. It is interesting to note that they confessed that David had been the one who had really led Israel, even during the days of Saul. David had been the military leader. He is the one who had commanded the troops and brought about the victories over their enemies. Then they also acknowledged that they had known all along that David had been God’s choice to be the next king of Israel. “And the Lord told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be Israel’s leader’” (2 Samuel 5:2 NLT). In the ancient Near East, the term, “shepherd” was a common term used to describe either a divinity, a king or ruler. So they were admitting that they had known all along that David had been the God-appointed ruler over Israel. But they had never done anything about it up until this point. This awareness on their part helps explain the reaction of Saul to David’s success. He feared David and was jealous of him. It wasn’t just that they sang songs about him, it was that he knew the rumors that David was to be the shepherd of Israel. So, he had set out to kill David.

A lesson to learn from this story is that it is possible to know the will of God and refuse to accept it. We can be completely aware of what it is that God wants us to do and then simply refuse to do it. If they had known all along that David was the God-appointed replacement for Saul, why had they not done anything to see that David was made king years earlier? Knowing God’s will is one thing. Obeying it is another.

But as the old saying goes: Better late, than never. They finally crown David king. The year was 1004 B.C. and David was 30-years old. He had already reigned seven years over Judah and he would reign an additional 33 years over the unified kingdom of Israel. So David would enjoy a four-decades-long rule and he would prove to be the greatest king Israel ever had. His reign would have its highs and lows, its moments of glory and its days of heart-crushing humiliation and defeat. Like any man, David would make mistakes. He would leave behind a legacy filled with all kinds of victories on the battle field as well as defeats in his own home. There was his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. There was the rape of his daughter, Tamar by her half-brother Amnon, followed closely by Amnon’s murder by Tamar’s brother, Absalom. David would prove to be a great king, but not always a great father. His reign would be marked by courage, wisdom and a willingness to serve God. But he would have his moments of self-inflicted pain and suffering because of his own impulsiveness and pride. David was not a perfect man, but he was a godly man. He had a heart for God. He had a desire to serve God. And the one thing that set David apart from Saul and so many of the other kings of Israel, was his heart of repentance. David messed up regularly and sometimes, spectacularly, but he was always quick to repent. He desired to be right with God. He even invited God to investigate his heart and expose anything in it that might be offensive to God but oblivious to himself.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” – Psalm 139:23-24 NLT

This chapter is really a snapshot of the true beginning of David’s reign as king, and it chronicles David’s capture of the city of Jerusalem. The passage rather matter-of-factly states, “the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites” (2 Samuel 5:6 ESV). David was searching for a capital, a city from which to rule over his newly unified nation. He had been using Hebron in the south, but it would prove too distant from all the other tribes to make a good capital. Jerusalem was centrally located and was situated on a mountain top surrounded by valleys, which provided it easy to defend.

But there was something far more important about Jerusalem and the site on which it was located than its natural defensive capabilities. It was located on Mount Moriah. That is the same mountain top on which God commanded Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice (Genesis 22). The city of Jerusalem itself has ties all the way back to Melchizedek, who was the king to which Abraham offered a tenth of his spoils taken in battle. The Genesis account lists Melchizedek as the king of Salem, which was to become the city of Jerusalem. The author of Hebrews would later compare Melchizedek with Jesus:

This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him. Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means “king of justice,” and king of Salem means “king of peace.” There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God. – Hebrews 7:1-3 NLT

The mountain on which Jerusalem sits also contains the Mount of Olives, the very place from which Jesus ascended back into heaven after his death and resurrection. It is also the place to which He will return at His second coming. It was also on the very same mountain on which Jerusalem sits, that Jesus was crucified. The very location where Abraham had been commanded to offer up his son, his only son, would be the same place where God would offer up His one and only Son for the sins of the world. Jerusalem had great significance. It was to be David’s capital and eventually the home of the temple, built by David’s son, Solomon. Jerusalem would be where Jesus had His triumphal entry, but also His trials and condemnation to death for claiming to be the Son of God. It would be outside the walls of Jerusalem, the city of peace, that Jesus would be hung on a cross and left to die. Jesus would one day weep over the city of Jerusalem, saying:

“How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.” – Luke 19:43-44 NLT

David was choosing Jerusalem, “the city of peace” to be his capital. But over the centuries, it would know times of peace and times of difficulty. It would contain the temple of God, but many of its inhabitants would act as if God did not exist. Even in the days of Jesus, He would recognize that their love for God had waned and the days of God’s judgment were coming. But Jerusalem still holds a special place in the heart of God and it will be from the city of Jerusalem that the second David, the King of kings and Lord of lords will rule and reign when Christ sets up His kingdom on earth.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Crippled By Self-Sufficiency.

When Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, heard that Abner had died at Hebron, his courage failed, and all Israel was dismayed. Now Saul’s son had two men who were captains of raiding bands; the name of the one was Baanah, and the name of the other Rechab, sons of Rimmon a man of Benjamin from Beeroth (for Beeroth also is counted part of Benjamin; the Beerothites fled to Gittaim and have been sojourners there to this day).

Jonathan, the son of Saul, had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled, and as she fled in her haste, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.

Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ish-bosheth as he was taking his noonday rest. And they came into the midst of the house as if to get wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.  When they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedroom, they struck him and put him to death and beheaded him. They took his head and went by the way of the Arabah all night, and brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David at Hebron. And they said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The Lord has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.” But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, when one told me, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?” And David commanded his young men, and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hanged them beside the pool at Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner at Hebron. – 2 Samuel 4 ESV

The transition of the kingdom from Saul to David had been anything but smooth up to this point. With Saul’s death, you would have thought that the path for David’s God-ordained ascension to the throne would have been cleared of all roadblocks. But then Abner had shown up and convinced Saul’s son, Ish-bostheth to claim the crown for himself. This set up a long, drawn-out conflict between the tribe of Judah and the remaining tribes of Israel. Then, when David’s men routed the army of Ish-bosheth, you would have thought that Abner, the commander of Ish-bosheth’s troops would have recommended surrender. But it would not be until Ish-bosheth made a stink about Abner sleeping with one of his concubines that Abner decided to turn his back on the house of Saul and offer his services and the allegiance of the remaining tribes of Israel to David.

David, in an effort to solidify his claim to the crown, took Abner up on his offer and made a peace treaty with him, with a special addendum, that Ish-bosheth return David’s wife, Michal, to him. The only problem with David’s deal with Abner is that he never informed Joab, his own military commander. What made this oversight particularly blatant was that Abner had murdered Joab’s brother, Ahasel. David’s treaty with Abner surprised and offended Joab, and so, he took matters into his own hands and murdered Abner. This forced David into damage control, prompting him to throw a huge state funeral for Abner and to pronounce a devastating curse on his own military commander. Now things were in a state of turmoil. Upon hearing of Abner’s death, Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul and the king of the remaining tribes of Israel, lost his nerve. Up until that point, he had been little more than a puppet king, relying heavily on Abner’s charisma and leadership to survive. Now that Abner was dead, he was on his own, a thought that left him scared to death. Not only that, the people of Israel had no confidence in his ability to lead the nation without Abner’s help. In this unstable state, Ish-bosheth found himself in a highly vulnerable spot. And it led two men, Rechab and Baanah, to plot and carry out the assassination of the king. They believed, that with Ish-bosheth out of the way, they could hand over the kingdom to David, and receive a reward for their act of allegiance.

It does not appear from the text that any of this was God’s will. This was clearly the work of two men, who were taking matters into their own hands and attempting to facilitate the outcome that best suited their own personal interests. Like Abner, Rechab and Baanah had no love affair for David. They were in it for what they could get out of it. Ish-bosheth was nothing more than a means to an end, with the end being their own personal ambitions.

What’s important to note is that all of this began with David’s decision to make an alliance with Abner, a plan that had been concocted by Abner, but not ordained or approved by God. Nowhere do we see David seeking or receiving God’s permission to sign a deal with Abner. And in doing so, David created a highly unstable and potentially dangerous atmosphere. God didn’t need David’s help in uniting the kingdom. He had not sanctioned a treaty with Abner. And because David chose to act without God’s approval, Abner ended up dead, murdered by Joab. Joab ended up cursed by David. Ish-bosheth ended up assassinated by Rechab and Baanah. And those two men would end up executed by David’s order, with their heads and hands cut off and their bodies hung up for public display. What a great way to start a kingdom!

In the midst of all this mess there’s one subtle ray of light. It’s easy to miss. In verse four, there is the mention of Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. This verses is almost a parenthetical statement that comes out of the blue. It doesn’t seem to fit the context, but it sets up something that is going to happen later on in the story and recorded in chapter nine. Mephibosheth was the grandson of Saul, and as such, he would have been a potential heir to the throne of Saul. But he was only five-years old and suffered from a physical disability of some sort. In the middle of all the death, deceit, self-centered promotional efforts, jockeying for position, seeking of rewards and looking out for number one, Mephibosheth’s name appears as a subtle hint that it is the helpless and hopeless, the overlooked and the down-and-out who God protects. Abner could make deals, but he would eventually have to deal with God. Rechab and Baanah could come up with plans to line their pockets and improve their futures, but ultimately, their futures were in God’s hands. Joab could seek to mete out revenge on his own terms, but would learn that vengeance, when not left up to God can end up as anything but a blessing. David could attempt to speed up his ascension to the throne of all Israel, but he would learn the hard way, that trying to accomplish God’s will your own way rarely ends well.

We’re told that Mephibosheth “was crippled in his feet.” Could it be that this little description was meant to provide a not-so-subtle insight into how David, in an attempt to help God out, was actually crippling his own kingship. The helplessness of Mephibosheth provides a dramatic reminder of David’s need for God. This young boy, who lacked the ability to walk on his own, would find himself at the mercy of the king. He would have no other choice than to entrust his life to the sovereign will of his grandfather’s replacement. And David was still learning that his life, his kingdom, and his future rule over the house of Israel were completely at the mercy of God Almighty. Waiting on and resting in Him is always the best course of action.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

When Helping God Out Hurts.

Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and mourn before Abner.” And King David followed the bier. They buried Abner at Hebron. And the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. And the king lamented for Abner, saying,

“Should Abner die as a fool dies?
Your hands were not bound;
    your feet were not fettered;
as one falls before the wicked
    you have fallen.”

And all the people wept again over him. Then all the people came to persuade David to eat bread while it was yet day. But David swore, saying, “God do so to me and more also, if I taste bread or anything else till the sun goes down!” And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people. So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king’s will to put to death Abner the son of Ner. And the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? And I was gentle today, though anointed king. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are more severe than I. The Lord repay the evildoer according to his wickedness!” – 2 Samuel 3:31-39 ESV

There is a lot going on in this passage. It is a convoluted and confusing mixture of different events that make it difficult to truly determine what is going on. Abner, the former commander-in-chief of Saul’s armies, has been killed by Joab, the general over David’s armies. This had been an act of vengeance for Abner having killed Joab’s brother, Asahel. Abner had just made an alliance with David, promising that he could bring the northern tribes of Israel under David’s rule. And he had also agreed to David’s demand to return Michal, David’s first wife, even though she had already remarried. And the apparent motivation behind Abner’s switching of sides from Ish-bosheth to David, was because Ish-bosheth had confronted him about having sexual relations with one of his concubines. Abner, who was the one who had made it possible for Ish-bosheth to be king over Israel in the first place, didn’t like Ish-bosheth’s tone. As a result, he decided to hand the kingdom of Ish-bosheth over to David. Abner was a self-seeking opportunist who, from the very beginning, was looking out for his own interests. He had no dedication to or devotion for David. He simply knew that he would be better off moving his allegiances to the winning side.

But Joab threw a wrench into Abner and David’s plans by pursuing and killing Abner for having murdered his brother. While this outcome caught David off guard, it shouldn’t have surprised him. He had just made a treaty with a man who was a known traitor and murderer. Not only that, he had done so without even consulting Joab or at least letting him know beforehand what he had done. Joab had been caught off guard and reacted with surprise, anger and retribution against Abner.

And yet, when David received the news of Abner’s death, he reacted with shock and sadness. He lashed out at Joab, even pronouncing horrific curses on he and his household, for generations to come. In essence, David publicly chastises Joab for his killing of Abner, declaring for everyone to hear that it was his desire that God make every descendant of Joab suffer from a plague, be crippled, die by the sword, become beggars or end their lives destitute. This sounds like a bit of an overreaction. What was the motivation behind David’s response? Why did he react so strongly to what Joab had done? The passage does not tell us. And there are many commentators who go out of their way to justify David’s actions as righteous and just, reflecting his godly heart. But there may be more going on here than meets the eye. David had made his allegiance with Abner in order to solidify his kingdom. Abner had promised to bring the tribe of Benjamin, as well as the other northern tribes, under David’s rule. Now that plan was in jeopardy. David most likely feared that when the people of Benjamin heard the Abner, a fellow tribesman and hero, had been killed, they might renege on their commitment. David’s hopes of a unified kingdom could evaporate right before his eyes. So, he launched an emergency PR campaign.

David publicly chastised Joab. Why? He could have done so in private, but he wanted everyone to know his displeasure with Joab’s actions. Not only that, David planned a very public display demonstrating his sadness over Abner’s death. David even commanded Joab to publicly mourn the man who had killed his own brother. “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and mourn before Abner” (2 Samuel 3:31 ESV). David also called for a national day of mourning and arranged for a well-attended, highly visible state funeral for Abner.

David, not done with his public demonstration of sadness over Abner’s death, refused to eat or drink anything all day, refusing the encouragement of the people to break his fast. The result? “And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people” (2 Samuel 3:36 ESV). In other words, David’s actions accomplished exactly what he had intended. The passage goes on to tell us, “So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king’s will to put to death Abner the son of Ner” (2 Samuel 3:37 ESV). One of the things that happens when we study a character like David, is that we come to the passage with preconceived ideas about his character that can influence our interpretation of the text. Because we know that David considered by God a man after his own heart, we automatically assume that his actions were always just. But a cursory look at David’s life reveals that this was not the case. David was a man, and like any man, he had a sin nature that sometimes dictated and determined his actions. There were times when David did the right thing. But there were just as many times when he did the wrong thing. I believe David’s actions surrounding Abner’s death reflect the latter. He was simply trying to save his kingdom. He was doing everything IN HIS POWER to do damage control. He desperately wanted a unified kingdom and he probably justified his actions as being well within God’s will. After all, he was just trying to bring about the very thing God had wanted all along: His ascension to the throne of ALL Israel.

But was all of this part of God’s will? Was this the way God wanted things done? Had David sought God’s will before he made his alliance with Abner? Just like the time David decided to seek refuge and safety in the land of the Philistines, God allowed him to do so, but David’s determination to do things his way would come back to haunt him. There are far too many times when we can convince ourselves that God somehow needs our help. In our attempt to assist God in accomplishing His will for our lives, we come up with self-made plans that end up doing more harm than good. Abraham, in an attempt to help God fulfill His promise to make of he and Sarah a great nation, suggested that God just allow him to make one of his household servants his heir. After all, Abraham was old and his wife was barren. God needed a plan B. And when God refused Abraham’s idea, Sarah came up with one of her own. She suggested that Abraham take her maidservant and impregnate her. Abraham eagerly agreed to his wife’s plan and, while Haggar did bear him a son, God refused to allow Ishmael to serve as Abraham’s substitute heir. God had other plans.

I believe David was attempting to help God out. After years of wandering and waiting, he was ready to establish his kingdom once and for all. Abner had provided him with a prime opportunity to speed up the process. Yet David conveniently overlooked the red flags that accompanied his alliance with Abner. He demanded and received his wife back, even though she had to be removed by force from her husband. In doing so, David violated the law of God. Then David had to overlook Abner’s guilt regarding the murder of Asahel. David even allowed him to escape to Hebron, a city of refuge, when Abner didn’t meet the necessary requirements as provided by the law. Out of political convenience, David had ignored the possible ramifications his decision would have on Joab, one of his most faithful companions and bravest military leaders. In an attempt to solidify and secure his kingdom, David had been willing to make some risky and unwise decisions.

And yet, as God is so prone to do, He would bless David in spite of David. God did not need David’s help. God had not commanded David to make an alliance with Abner. David’s decision had resulted in the death of Abner, his rash cursing of Joab and his family, and would ultimately result in the murder of Ish-bosheth by two assassins who thought they were doing David a favor. Decisions made by godly men, but without God’s help, never result in godly outcomes. They produce confusion, dissension, and difficulties of all kinds. And while God’s will always ends up being accomplished, our attempts to help Him out usually end up making the experience far more difficult than it needed to be.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Complexity of Sin.

Just then the servants of David arrived with Joab from a raid, bringing much spoil with them. But Abner was not with David at Hebron, for he had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. When Joab and all the army that was with him came, it was told Joab, “Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he has let him go, and he has gone in peace.” Then Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Behold, Abner came to you. Why is it that you have sent him away, so that he is gone? You know that Abner the son of Ner came to deceive you and to know your going out and your coming in, and to know all that you are doing.”

When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it. And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had put their brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon. – 2 Samuel 3:22-30 ESV

Sin is simple to commit. For most of us, it comes far easier than we would like. We can find ourselves committing sins as the result of the slightest temptation. But the ramifications of sin are rarely simple or easy. Sins can be addictive and habit-forming, with one leading to another, then another. And our own sins can lead others to sin. That happens to be the case in these verses concerning David, Abner and Joab. David, in his desire to have Michal, his first wife, returned to him, made an unwise decision that was non-sanctioned by God. In exchange for Michal and the allegiance of the rest of the tribes of Israel, DAvid made an alliance with Abner, the former commander-in-chief of Saul’s army. This was the very same man who had convinced Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, to claim the throne as the rightful heir of Saul. Abner, without God’s counsel of approval, appointed Ish-bosheth king of the Benjaminites and all the other tribes of Israel. In doing so, he stood against not only David, but God, who had chosen David to be Saul’s replacement. Abner did not do what he did in ignorance, because he had told the elders of Israel:

“For some time past you have been seeking David as king over you. Now then bring it about, for the Lord has promised David, saying, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from the hand of all their enemies.’” – 2 Samuel 3:16-17 ESV

His decision to make Ish-bosheth king of Israel was an act of rebellion, against the God-ordained choice of David as king. And yet, David, in his desire to get his wife back and in hopes of solidifying the kingdom, made an agreement with Abner.

When Joab, a commander in David’s army, returned from battle with his troops, he heard the news of what David had done and was shocked. He even confronted David, saying, “What have you done? What do you mean by letting Abner get away? You know perfectly well that he came to spy on you and find out everything you’re doing!” (2 Samuel 3:24-25 NLT). Joab was not only appalled by David’s naiveté, but with his insensitivity to what Abner had done to his brother, Asahel. From Joab’s point of view, David should have been seeking to punish Abner for murder, not making alliances with him. And it’s interesting to note that Abner, upon leaving David’s company, made his way to Hebron, a city of refuge. God had commanded that the Israelites establish six cities of refuge within the promised land.

When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, designate cities of refuge to which people can flee if they have killed someone accidentally. These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community.  – Numbers 35:10-12 NLT

Notice the very important qualifier: “if they have killed someone by accident.” This had not been the case in Abner’s killing of Asahel. He had run Asahel through with the butt-end of a spear. There was nothing about it that had been accidental. And yet, Abner, knowing that Joab would be seeking vengeance for the death of his brother, sought refuge in Hebron. Once again, our sins have a way of not only expanding, but of infecting those around us. David’s lust for Michal, who had remarried and was therefore off limits for David, caused him to make an unwise allegiance with Abner. Rather than punish him for his murder of Asahel, David rewarded him with freedom. Which then caused Joab to take matters into his own hands. He did what David had been unwilling to do. And what he did was in keeping with the commands of God. Consider carefully what God had said about the matter:

But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. And if he struck him down with a stone tool that could cause death, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. 18 Or if he struck him down with a wooden tool that could cause death, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. The avenger of blood shall himself put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. And if he pushed him out of hatred or hurled something at him, lying in wait, so that he died, or in enmity struck him down with his hand, so that he died, then he who struck the blow shall be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him. – Numbers 35:16-21 ESV

Abner deserved death for what he had done, not a get-out-of-jail-free card from the king. Joab did what David should have done. But in his life, David showed a disinclination to deal with those whose actions deserved judgment. When Amnon raped his half-sister, Tamar, David did nothing to punish him. When Absalom, Tamar’s brother, arranged for the murder of Amnon, David did nothing. Years later, after David had allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem, unpunished, Absalom fomented a rebellion against his own father. And what did David do? He abandoned the city. He gave up. He walked away.

It’s interesting to note that, if David believed what Joab did to Abner was wrong, he did nothing about it. Rather than punish Joab, he pronounced a curse on he and his family, saying:

“Joab and his family are the guilty ones. May the family of Joab be cursed in every generation with a man who has open sores or leprosy or who walks on crutches or dies by the sword or begs for food!” – 2 Samuel 3:29 NLT

David placed all the blame of Joab. He distanced himself from what had just happened. This was probably great political policy, since David was attempting to establish his kingdom, and he feared the reactions of the Benjaminites when they heard of Abner’s death. But David’s curse on Joab appears to be completely uncalled for and without divine authorization. Abner had been a traitor and a murderer. He had led a rebelli0n against the God-ordained king of Israel. Rather than face capture, he had brutally murdered his pursuer, Asahal. And according to the command of God, he deserved death. In fact, David had violated the very word of God by making his agreement with Abner. In essence, he had allowed Abner to buy his way out of his guilt. Listen to what God has to say about that:

Also, you must never accept a ransom payment for the life of someone judged guilty of murder and subject to execution; murderers must always be put to death. And never accept a ransom payment from someone who has fled to a city of refuge, allowing a slayer to return to his property before the death of the high priest. Numbers 35:31-32 NLT

The truly fascinating thing about all of this will be David’s reaction to the death of Abner. How much of it is based on political posturing, we will never know. Was David simply attempting to win over the northern tribes by assuring them of his love for Abner? Only David and God know for sure. But suffice it to say that David showed far more sadness over the death of Abner than he did of Asahel, one of his own men, who had been murdered by Abner. There is no record of David having mourned Asahel’s death. No tears were shed. No memorial service was held. And yet, we will see David go out of his way to memorialize and eulogize the death of a traitor and a murderer.

Sin has a way of growing, like a cancer. Unchecked, it can spread, infecting our life and destroying our spiritual health. Not only that, it can contaminate those around us. It is never simple or easily controlled. We may think we have a handle on our sin and are able to manage it, but we are deluded and naive. Sin is dangerous and deadly. And when we attempt to apply logic to our sins in order to rationalize our behavior, we run the risk of opening the door to additional and even more deadly forms of rebellion against God.

The apostle John gives us some sobering counsel regarding the sin in our lives:

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. – 1 John 1:8-10 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

When Sin Clouds Our Thinking.

While there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul. Now Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. And Ish-bosheth said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?” Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head of Judah? To this day I keep showing steadfast love to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers, and to his friends, and have not given you into the hand of David. And yet you charge me today with a fault concerning a woman. God do so to Abner and more also, if I do not accomplish for David what the Lord has sworn to him, to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to Beersheba.” And Ish-bosheth could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him.

And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make your covenant with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you to bring over all Israel to you.” And he said, “Good; I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you; that is, you shall not see my face unless you first bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to see my face.” Then David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, for whom I paid the bridal price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” And Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned.

And Abner conferred with the elders of Israel, saying, “For some time past you have been seeking David as king over you. Now then bring it about, for the Lord has promised David, saying, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from the hand of all their enemies.’” Abner also spoke to Benjamin. And then Abner went to tell David at Hebron all that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin thought good to do.

When Abner came with twenty men to David at Hebron, David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. And Abner said to David, “I will arise and go and will gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace. – 2 Samuel 3:6-21 ESV

Living in disobedience to God’s commands can cloud our thinking. It renders us incapable of making wise decisions because we end up making them in the flesh. As long as we harbor unconfessed sin in our hearts, we will find our minds suffering from cloudy thinking. That seems to have been David’s problem As we saw in the opening verses of this chapter, David had a problem with women – he was addicted to them. So much so, that he ended up with as many as eight wives, in direct violation of God’s law. Now, when Abner proposes to hand over to David the other tribes and solidify his kingship, David readily agrees, but on one condition. He demands that Michal, the daughter of Saul and his first wife be returned to him. And this is in spite of the fact that Michal had already remarried. We are not given David’s motives. Perhaps he was simply trying to solidify his right to be king over all the tribes and assumed that having Michal as his queen would win over the Benjaminites. But the likely reason behind David’s demand for Michal’s return was tied to his love affair with women. He wanted her back. And he emphasized to Ish-bosheth that he had every right to have her back because, he said, “I paid the bridal price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines” (2 Samuel 3:14 ESV).

But, once again, David was making decisions with a mind clouded by sin. He wasn’t processing clearly the ramifications of his actions. First of all, Michal had remarried, and God had made it clear in His law that it was unacceptable for anyone to remarry his wife after she had married again (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). And when David demanded that she be returned to him, she was removed from her home by force, leaving her husband in tears. This decision would come back to haunt David. His relationship with Michal would never be the same. Later on in the book of 2 Samuel, there is the story recorded of when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David had arranged for a royal procession, complete with music and much celebration. He led the parade, dancing with joy before the cart carrying the Ark of the Covenant. But we read what Michal thought about David’s exhibition.

As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. – 2 Samuel 6:16 ESV

But demanding the return of Michal was not the only poor decision David made. His negotiations with Abner would prove problematic. This man had been the one to convince Ish-bosheth, the sole remaining son of Saul, to declare himself king of all of Israel. Abner is the one who led the armies of Ish-bosheth against David. And he is the one who killed Asahel, the brother of Joab. Abner was a self-seeking opportunist who would do anything to feather his own nest. He had no love affair for Ish-bosheth. He was simply using him. And when Ish-bosheth confronts Abner about sleeping with one of his concubines, Abner becomes furious and threatens to switch sides – which he does. He had just been defeated by David’s forces in battle and he knew that Ish-bosheth was not fit to be king. So he makes a deal with David, completely motivated by self-preservation. And David, his mind clouded by sin, unwisely accepts his offer.

Had David been thinking clearly, he would have seen through Abner’s overtures. He would have recognized that Abner had no allegiance to him or his kingdom. He was in it for himself. And David didn’t even seem to consider how his decision would impact Joab, his friend and commander-in-chief. In fact, when David made this decision, Joab was just returning from a successful raid, where he and David’s men had captured a great deal of plunder. David never seems to consider how Joab would take the news of his willing acceptance of Abner’s offer. And as a result, David’s decision would bring about further, unnecessary bloodshed.

It had been one thing for David to refuse to kill king Saul, the Lord’s anointed, when he had the chance. But to knowingly overlook the unfaithfulness of Abner, and welcome him back with open arms, was another thing. Over his lifetime, David would show a propensity for avoiding doing the right thing. Years later, when his own son Absalom would have his half-brother Amnon murdered for raping his sister, Tamar,  David would take no action. He simply allowed Absalom to run away. There is no punishment meted out. Absalom was not forced to pay for his sin. And when Joab tricked David into allowing Absalom to return, he once again avoided the inevitable, refusing to meet with his son. And his lack of action would result in Absalom’s growing resentment and eventual overthrow of David’s rule.

Sin clouds our thinking. It makes it impossible to clearly hear from God. It blinds us to reality and casts a mist over the circumstances of life. We are unable to see things as they truly are. Our discernment becomes impaired. Our spiritual vision becomes blurry and our capacity to make wise choices becomes weakened. David was still a man after God’s own heart, but he was still a man who had to deal with the reality of indwelling sin.

Paul gives us a remedy for when we find our thinking clouded by sin:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2 NLT

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

David’s Achilles Heel.

There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.

And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron. – 2 Samuel 3:1-5 ESV

We already know that David was considered a man after God’s own heart. This was not a designation made by David or any other man. It was conferred upon him by the prophet of God under the divine inspiration of the Spirit of God. Years earlier, Samuel had broken the bad news to Saul. “But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart. The LORD has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14 NLT). Centuries later, the apostle Paul, while preaching to the Jews in the synagogue at Antioch, reconfirmed this divine designation of David as a man after His own heart.

“After that, God gave them judges to rule until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.” – Acts 13:20-22 NLT

But as we have already see, this lofty-sounding description of David did not mean he was perfect or without sin. Like any other man, David struggled with his own sin nature. He could be prone to disobedience and doubt, just like anybody else. And he had his own unique set of sins with which he struggled. One, in particular, would prove to be a constant source of temptation and testing for him: Women.

In the opening lines of this chapter, we’re told “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David.” But there was another battle brewing in the life of David. While he was growing stronger in his military position over Abner and the house of Saul, David was literally sowing the seeds of dissent and future discord that would rip his kingdom apart. It is important to note that God had made ample preparations for the arrival of a king on the scene. In fact, He had ordained that there would be a king over Israel. And He knew that the people would tend to want the wrong kind of king. So, He provided them with very clear commands:

“You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’ If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner.

“The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.” – Deuteronomy 17:14-117 NLT

Somewhat hidden and overlooked in this divine command is God’s prohibition against polygamy. When it came to “the man the Lord your God chooses,” he must “not take many wives for himself.” And God was very clear as to His reason behind this command. “because they will turn his heart away from the Lord.” And yet, we read in these opening verses of chapter 3, “And sons were born to David at Hebron.” Nothing wrong with that statement, until you read the following verses and notice the various mothers listed: Ahinoam of Jezreel, Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel, Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur, and Eglah. And not in this list is Michal, David’s first wife, the daughter of Saul. So effectively, at this early point in his reign, David had five wives. He would go on to have as many as eight.

It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to determine that David had an inordinate attraction to women. And he tended to act on it. Abigail is listed as one of his wives. She was the widow of Nabal, whom God destroyed. But David barely let Nabal’s body cool off before he took Abigail as his wife. David could be impulsive. And if we fast-forward to one of the most famous or infamous events in David’s life, we will see that his impulsiveness also led him to commit not only adultery, but murder. Glance over at 2 Samuel 11 and you will see the story of David and Bathsheba, a personal low point in David’s life that got permanently chronicled in the Scriptures. At a time when David, as king, should have been leading his troops in battle, he had determined to stay home. And one day, while walking about the roof of his palace, he saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof of her own home. There are some who speculate that this was not the first time David had spied Bathsheba bathing. It could have been the very reason he stayed home from battle. And his act of voyeurism resulted in him having Bathsheba brought to him. Their illicit liasson would result in an unexpected pregnancy. And since Bathsheba’s husband, a soldier in David’s own army was off at war, it was going to be hard to explain how his wife became pregnant. That’s when David launched an all-out effort to cover his sin. But his strategy failed and he ultimately resorted to having Bathsheba’s husband murdered by commanding that he be exposed to enemy fire on the front lines.

This is not a stellar moment in David’s life. But it provides a glimpse into a highly vulnerable area of his life. David’s love affair with women would prove to be problematic throughout his reign. In fact, if we look at the list of sons mentioned in these opening verses of chapter three, we see Amnon and Absalom. These two brothers born to different mothers would grow up to cause David much pain and suffering. In 2 Samuel 13, we have the sad story of Amnon’s rape of Tamar, his half-sister. Later on, in that very same chapter, we read of Absalom’s orchestration of Amnon’s murder, out of revenge for what he had done to Tamar, his sister. Absalom would be forced into exile for what he had done, but would later return, only to orchestrate the overthrow of his own father’s kingdom.

Verses 1-5 of chapter 3 seem innocent enough, but they foreshadow a future filled with brokenness, pain and suffering. And it began with David’s unwillingness to obey the command of God. And while David never seemed to allow his many wives to lead him away from his love and worship for God, his son, Solomon would. Solomon would follow in his father’s footsteps, suffering from the same addictive tendencies. In fact, Solomon would outdo his father in a major way, eventually amassing for himself a staggering 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3). And just as God had warned, these women, many of whom were from foreign nations and worshiped pagan gods, would eventually cause Solomon to erect their idols throughout his own kingdom. The book of 1 Kings paints a very bleak picture of the closing days of Solomon’s reign.

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. – 1 Kings 11:1-8 ESV

And it all began with David. A little compromise. A giving in to the desires of the flesh. A refusal to obey God fully and heed His warning. The long-term ramifications for sin can be devastating. Yes, David would be forgiven by God when he repented of his sin with Bathsheba, but the child she bore would die as a result. There are consequences to disobedience. God blessed David’s kingdom, but his many wives would prove to be a constant source of trouble in his life. David’s battle with the house of Saul would be nothing compared to the spiritual war he would wage as a result of his own sin nature.

 


English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Divided Kingdom.

And the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Now Asahel was as swift of foot as a wild gazelle. And Asahel pursued Abner, and as he went, he turned neither to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner. Then Abner looked behind him and said, “Is it you, Asahel?” And he answered, “It is I.” Abner said to him, “Turn aside to your right hand or to your left, and seize one of the young men and take his spoil.” But Asahel would not turn aside from following him. And Abner said again to Asahel, “Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?” But he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died where he was. And all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still.

But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner. And as the sun was going down they came to the hill of Ammah, which lies before Giah on the way to the wilderness of Gibeon. And the people of Benjamin gathered themselves together behind Abner and became one group and took their stand on the top of a hill. Then Abner called to Joab, “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” And Joab said, “As God lives, if you had not spoken, surely the men would not have given up the pursuit of their brothers until the morning.” So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men stopped and pursued Israel no more, nor did they fight anymore.

And Abner and his men went all that night through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, and marching the whole morning, they came to Mahanaim. Joab returned from the pursuit of Abner. And when he had gathered all the people together, there were missing from David’s servants nineteen men besides Asahel. But the servants of David had struck down of Benjamin 360 of Abner’s men. And they took up Asahel and buried him in the tomb of his father, which was at Bethlehem. And Joab and his men marched all night, and the day broke upon them at Hebron. – 2 Samuel 2:18-32 ESV

As this chapter closes, we are given a glimpse into what will become a long-standing issue for the nation of Israel. With Saul’s death, each tribe was left to fend for itself and determine its own fate. Abner, Saul’s former commander-in-chief and fellow Benjaminite, took it upon himself to crown Ish-bosheth, the youngest son of Saul, the king of “all Israel” (2 Samuel 2:9). David had already been appointed king by his own tribe, the tribe of Judah, but Abner refused to accept him as king. Suddenly, the nation was divided into factions, and their differences quickly escalated. Forces led by Abner and made up of mostly his own kinsmen, did battle with David and the people of Judah. Abner and his men were routed and pursued by the Benjaminites. One particular man, Asahel, who happened to “as swift of foot as a wild gazelle”, took it upon himself to catch Abner. Everyone knew that Abner was the driving force behind the battle. Ish-bosheth, the supposed king of Israel, is not even mentioned as being at the battle. But Asahel’s enthusiasm got the best of him, when Abner killed him. That led the brothers of Asahel to take up the chase of Abner in order to avenge their brother’s death.

But the whole affair would end in an awkward truce. As the two parties face off once again, with Abner and the Benjaminites on one side and the forces of Judah on the other, Abner called out, “Must we always be killing each other? Don’t you realize that bitterness is the only result? When will you call off your men from chasing their Israelite brothers?” (2 Samuel 2:26 NLT). The battle had not been going Abner’s way. He had already lost more than 300 men, while David’s troops had lost only 20. He could see that things were not going his way, so he appealed to Joab to accept a cease-fire. “So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men stopped and pursued Israel no more, nor did they fight anymore” (2 Samuel 2:28 ESV).

The battle ended, but the hostilities between the northern and southern tribes of Israel were far from over. In fact, the 12 tribes of Israel would experience ongoing hostilities for generations to come. It is interesting to look at the blessings that Jacob gave each of his 12 sons, the very men from whom the 12 tribes of Israel descended. In particular, Jacob said of Benjamin:

“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf,
    devouring his enemies in the morning
    and dividing his plunder in the evening.” – Genesis 49:27 NLT

And here were Abner and the men of Benjamin, attempting to devour David and the men of Judah, refusing to accept David as their king. And of Judah, Jacob said:

“Judah, your brothers will praise you.
    You will grasp your enemies by the neck.
    All your relatives will bow before you.
Judah, my son, is a young lion
    that has finished eating its prey.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down;
    like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants,
until the coming of the one to whom it belongs,
    the one whom all nations will honor.” – Genesis 49:8-10 NLT

All your relatives will bow before you. Well, that wasn’t exactly the case at this point in time, was it? Abner and the Benjaminites were having a difficult time giving up what they believed to be their right to be the ruling tribe. King Saul had been of theirs and it only made sense to them that Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, should be the next king. But the only problem was that Ish-bosheth was not the man God had chosen. Jacob, under divine inspiration, had clearly communicated that all the tribes would bow down to Judah. But that fact was unacceptable to Abner and his fellow Benjaminites. They had what they believed to be was a better plan. But their agenda was driven by selfishness and self-centeredness. Abner was not willing to give up his role as the commander-in-chief of the king’s armies. He had no love affair for Ish-bosheth. In fact, he was simply using him as a means to maintain his own power and significance. Abner was used to being a man of influence and importance. And the idea of having that taken away from him was unacceptable.

At the end of the day, Abner and the men of Benjamin were not doing battle with David and the forces of Judah. They were fighting God. They were opposing the will of God and attempting to achieve their own agenda their own way – by force. It is amazing how easily any of us can find ourselves doing battle with God because we simply don’t like what He is doing. Too often, we can find his will distasteful and unacceptable, and rationalize a way to reject it and replace it with a plan of our own. Even if it results in conflict with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we’ll stubbornly stick to our guns, justifying our actions as right and just. But in the end, we are doing battle with God. And that is a battle we will never win.

Accepting the idea that God’s will is always best is difficult. Especially when it seems to go against what we think best for us. Abner couldn’t imagine a kingdom without him in its leadership. He was unwilling to accept the idea that he was not a part of this particular phase of God’s plan. Self-importance and an inflated sense of self-worth can drive any of us to react to God’s in what will eventually be self-destructive ways. Rather than accept David as king, Abner was willing to risk it all for one last chance at glory. And his actions left 381 men dead and a nation divided. Demanding our way and asserting our will always results in unnecessary destruction. It may not end in death, but it will always bring pain, suffering, division, jealousy, and broken relationships. It is interesting to note that in Galatians 5, Paul tells us “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear” (Galatians 5:19 NLT). Then he includes the following:

…hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division – Galatians 5:20 NLT

Division is destructive. And it is usually a byproduct of our sin nature, driving us to think about self more than others. Unity is critical for God’s people. God’s desire was to unite 12 tribes under a single banner, led by one man. And God still desires that His people be one. That is why Jesus prayed in the garden:

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” – John 17:20-21 NLT

Unity requires humility. Self-importance and pride are antithetical to God’s will for His people. Living for God requires dying to self. Experiencing His blessing both personally and corporately requires that we submit to His will, whether we like it or not and whether He chooses us use us or not.


English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Here We Go Again.

But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim, and he made him king over Gilead and the Ashurites and Jezreel and Ephraim and Benjamin and all Israel. Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David. And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months. 
Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. And they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool. And Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men arise and compete before us.” And Joab said, “Let them arise.” Then they arose and passed over by number, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. And each caught his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side, so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, which is at Gibeon. And the battle was very fierce that day. And Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David. – 2 Samuel 2:8-17 ESV

The fact that verse 8 starts with with the word “but” should tell us something. The is something about to happen that is going to stand in direct contrast to the events of the first seven verses. David had received a warm welcome from the people of Judah, but that was to be expected, since he was of the tribe of Judah. David knew he was going to have a more difficult time winning over the rest of the tribes of Israel and convincing them to make him their king. That’s part of the reason behind his overtures to the men of Jabesh-gilead, because they were of the tribe of Gad. The nation of Israel, while having been united under the leadership of Saul, was still little more than a loose confederation of 12 tribes. Their relationships with each other were typically fractious and contentious. Now, David was attempting to unite them under his leadership and sovereignty as king.

But that’s not the only “but” in these verses. There was yet another facing David’s quest to become the king of Israel. It seems that not all of Saul’s sons died with him on the battlefield. There was one name left out: Ish-bosheth. He was the youngest of Saul’s four sons and would have been about 40-years old when his father and brothers fell at the battle of Gilboa. His given name was Eshbaal,which provides us with an interesting insight into King Saul. Baal was a Canaanite deity. And the name Eshbaal means “man of Baal”. So Saul names his youngest son after a false god. Interestingly enough, the Jews would not repeat the name of this pagan idol, so they substituted the word, “boshesh”, which meant shame of confusion. So, Eshbaal became known as Ish-bosheth. And the son Jonathan, who will appear later on in the story, was known as Mephibosheth.
But back to Ish-bosheth. It seems that this one son of Saul either survived the battle at Gilboa or was not even present. And Abner, the commander of Saul’s armies, decided to use this sole surviving son as a tool to keep David from ascending to the throne. Keep in mind that Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, as was Abner, his uncle. So it seems that Abner was attempting to keep the crown within the ranks of the Benjaminites.
So, Saul “appointed him king over Gilead, the Geshurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and all Israel” (2 Samuel 2:9 ESV). This would have been way out of Abner’s area of responsibility as Saul’s former commander in chief. It was not up to him to choose and appoint the king. The Israelites were to be a theocracy, ruled over by God Almighty. It was up to Him to choose their king, just as He had chosen Saul. Abner did not have authority or permission from God to do what he did. But he didn’t let that small detail stand in his way.
Lest we think this was small matter that was of little or no significance, notice that Ish-bosheth was made king over Geshur. That was an area within the territory belonging to the tribe of Manasseh. Jezreel was in the land belonging to the tribe of Issachar. And then the text goes on to include the tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin and “all Israel”. So effectively, Abner crowned Ish-bosheth as king over all Israel, even countering David’s claim to be king over Judah. And we’re told that Ish-bosheth reigned for two years. This was no short-lived, flash-in-the-pan event. Once again, David found himself with serious opposition and facing another enemy from within his own nation. Saul was dead, but his son was alive and so was Abner. And Abner had probably never forgotten the little lecture David had given him at Gibeah, after David had snuck into their camp and taken Saul’s spear and water jug as he slept.
“Well, Abner, you’re a great man, aren’t you?” David taunted. “Where in all Israel is there anyone as mighty? So why haven’t you guarded your master the king when someone came to kill him? This isn’t good at all! I swear by the Lord that you and your men deserve to die, because you failed to protect your master, the Lord’s anointed! Look around! Where are the king’s spear and the jug of water that were beside his head?” – 1 Samuel 26:15-16 NLT
Abner even led his troops into battle against David and his men, meeting them at the pool of Gibeon. The initial conflict was an agreed-upon battle between 24 men, 12 from each side. This mini-battle ended in a draw, with all 24 men dead. But that was not the end of the hostilities. It was followed by a pitched battle between the forces of these two opposing kings. Many would die that day. Like our own Civil War, this battle represented brother fighting against brother. It characterized the divided nature of the kingdom at that time. And this was the contentious atmosphere in which David was forced to begin his reign.
David’s path to the throne had been anything but easy, and it was not getting any smoother. He had been anointed by Samuel years earlier, but it had taken a long time before a crown was placed on his head. And even when it was, it represented the allegiance of a single tribe, his own. Winning over the other 11 tribes and solidifying his God-appointed position as King of Israel was going to be difficult and drawn out. There were still lessons for David to learn. And God was providentially shifting the mindset of the tribes of Israel from autonomous people groups living in isolation and under self-rule to that of a single nation united under one king. God was unifying what had been fractious. He was solidifying what had been disparate. He was making of the divided tribes of Israel a great nation that would be ruled by a great king who was a man after His own heart. The days ahead would be rocky. They would be filled with disappointment. Many would die. Others would loose loved ones as a result of the battles that followed. David’s fledgling kingdom would suffer before it ever experienced any success. But it was all part of God’s sovereign plan.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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