Monday, May 22, 2023

David is named King of Judah in Hebron

David trusted God for years and years. He trusted God as his enemies closed in around him. He trusted God as he lived in caves. He trusted God even when he was alone and on the run. He trusted God when Saul tried to kill him. He trusted God when he was an outcast.

At last, the time had come. David had waited such a long time, for God’s promise given to him through the prophet Samuel. The promise was simple: You will be king. 

Now David asks God what he should do next. King Saul is dead. And it’s in David’s mind that he should go up to the towns of Judah, one of the tribes of Israel.

Have God ever placed something on your heart? You keep thinking about it. You’ve prayed about it. It pops into your head. People bring it up to you. In the scriptures as you read them it keeps coming up. Then finally, you ask God. And God makes it clear, this is the way.

It says in 2 Samuel 2:1 "In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.

The Lord said, “Go up.”

David asked, “Where shall I go?”

“To Hebron,” the Lord answered."

Notice it says, “in the course of time.” Don’t get pushy with God about timing. God does his own thing with timing. We have to wait patiently. Don’t insist God give you the answer ahead of time. He’ll tell you when he chooses to. We aren’t God. He is God.

Do you get that this is a spiritual way of living? It’s the 4th dimension of existence. We all live by the three basic instincts, security instinct, social instinct, and sexual instinct. The fourth dimension is God-consciousness, practically learning to communicate with God on a daily basis. Instead of desperately trying to manipulate events to fulfill your base desires, you instead live on the 4th plane, relationship with God. All the desires which used to control your life are now secondary to God's control. 

You can have an actual intimate relationship with God himself. One day at a time. Seeking His will. Listening for his voice. Studying his word. Applying it. And over the years you learn to walk with God. A lifelong journey of faith.

Then, in verses 2-4: “So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.”

Trust God, the day will come, and sure enough the day came when David was anointed as king. But even now it’s not the full promise, it’s a big part of it though. He is anointed king of Judah. But the other tribes of Israel are not yet with him. 

Have you ever felt disappointed? Have you ever thought, "this isn’t all of it! I was hoping for more." I wonder if David struggled. Then again maybe he was grateful at least to be king over Judah.

Next, David finds out about the men who buried Saul. In verses 5-7:

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

He thanks these men who were faithful and gave Saul a proper burial.

But trouble in brewing in the rest of the country. The leader of Saul’s army is still trying to hold Saul’s empire together.

It says in verses 8-11: "Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel. Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David. The length of time David was king in Hebron over Judah was seven years and six months."

Abner, this military leader of Saul’s kingdom sets up Saul’s remaining son Ish-Bosheth as king over the rest of Israel. And now we have the start of a civil war in the kingdom of Israel, David and his troops at Hebron, and Ish-Bosheth and Abner at Mahanaim.

Next, the two armies meet at Gibeon. It says in verses 12-15: "Abner son of Ner, together with the men of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon. Joab son of Zeruiah and David’s men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side.

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

“All right, let them do it,” Joab said.

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

So you have Joab leading David’s army. David isn’t there, he’s back in Hebron. And Abner leads Saul’s troops. They meet at a pool of water in Gibeon. They have twelve men from each group fight, twelve vs. twelve, and it gets bloody, with daggers. Each of them dies in this hand to hand combat. Apparently after this 12 vs. 12 fighting a greater battle broke out between the two armies.

It says, verses 17-23: "The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David’s men.

The three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle. He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. Abner looked behind him and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?”

“It is,” he answered.

Then Abner said to him, “Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons.” But Asahel would not stop chasing him.

Again Abner warned Asahel, “Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?”

But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died."

Abner doesn’t want to kill Asahel, he knows Joab, frankly they all know each other. It’s all Israel against Israel. It’s a civil war. So Asahel chases after Abner, and Abner suddenly turns, strikes him, and he dies. Abner didn’t want it to happen. But it did. And he kills him. Sad things happen in war, plain and simple.

Next, we see Abner making his last stand, in verses 24-28: "But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon. Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.

Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?”

Joab answered, “As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued pursuing them until morning.”

So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the troops came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.”"

Somehow, Abner, during his last stand on top of the hill, is able to speak the right words, to get Joab to turn back his troops. Stop this killing, no more. Have mercy. And Joab stops the fighting and lets them escape. For the sake of Israel. To hold it together. Sometimes you have to show some mercy. You have to stop and forgive them. You have to do something to bring peace. And that’s what Joab does here.

Abner and his men return to their capital city, of Israel, and Joab and his men return to Hebron, as it says in verses 29-32: "All that night Abner and his men marched through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, continued through the morning hours and came to Mahanaim. Then Joab stopped pursuing Abner and assembled the whole army. Besides Asahel, nineteen of David’s men were found missing. But David’s men had killed three hundred and sixty Benjamites who were with Abner. They took Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb at Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak."

All night they travel, and return to their respective cities, during the start of this civil war in the kingdom, between King David over Judah, and Ish-Bosheth over the other tribes. So now, a civil war has begun.

The final point today is that sometimes things get worse before they get better. It’s a mixed blessing, David becoming King of Judah, because the remnants of Saul’s empire aren’t done yet. They form into a confederacy and begin fighting against David. Sometimes it comes to blows, and everything seems out of control. But trust God in the storm, and he will get you through.