We were so used to peaceful transitions of power that it is difficult to imagine how difficult it must have been for Israel to shift their allegiance from King Saul to the new King David. Years went by and David gets stronger as those loyal to Saul and his family grow weaker.
David poorly handles his growing strength. He is blessed with many sons, but they come from many different wives. The text mentions six different sons born of six different wives. None of these sons will become the next king, but not for lack of trying. With war raging around him it is difficult to understand why David would create such a contentious atmosphere within his palace.
King Saul’s general, Abner, has anointed Ish-Bosheth king, but Abner can see that this is not going to work out. Ish-Bosheth, not recognizing who owned the real power in the kingdom, insults Abner and that drives Abner to accelerate what he already saw coming. Abner approaches David with a proposal to turn the remaining tribes of Israel over to David.
David immediately responds with a yes to Abner’s proposal. David does have one condition; he asks that his first wife Michal be returned to him. Michal was Saul’s daughter, and her bride price was 100 Philistine foreskins. I do not think this request was about romance. My opinion is that this was about retribution for her leaving David and giving herself to another man. I would feel bad for her second husband except that he must have had misplaced confidence that King Saul was eventually going to kill David.
Abner makes good on his proposal and gathers the leaders of Israel to encourage them to act on his proposal and make David their king. He makes a special effort to go to the Benjamites. King Saul was one of theirs and if they chose David as their king then their tribe would be losing some status as the royal line moved from Benjamin to Judah. Abner returns to David and lets him know of his success in preparing the way for David to become king of all Israel. After a feast of celebration David sends Abner away in peace.
Joab returns with his men after a successful raid. He discovers that David has had Abner in his grasp and let him go. This angers Joab and he immediately sends for Abner to call him back to Hebron, where David is. Abner comes and Joab takes him aside and kills him. David punishes Joab for his rash and vengeful act by cursing him and his family. Abner is buried with honor and David makes it clear he had nothing to do with Abner’s death. The people are pleased with David and another step is taken toward uniting the kingdom.
We might think that this would be a time of celebration for David. Instead, he acknowledges his weakness compared to Joab and his brother. The chapter ends with David calling on God to repay Joab for the evil he has done.
Then the king said to his men, “Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day? 39 And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!”2 Samuel 3:38-39 NIV
What about us?
David’s focus seems to have shifted in this chapter. When he was on the run, he constantly asked God for guidance and deliverance. Now it seems that David focuses on uniting the kingdom and attempting to please all the people. Even his multiple marriages indicate a surrender to the politics of the day and the building of alliances through marriage. This shift in focus leads to multiple future problems. The life of David the shepherd is simple and the life of David the king will be increasingly complex.
We make a mistake anytime we attempt to shore up our weaknesses with human wisdom and approaches. I have read many leadership books and I would still consider many of them very helpful. However, when I took what I learned from the books and failed to compare it to God’s wisdom failure was almost certain. The best leadership lessons came when I had no idea what to do and cried out to God for help. When I felt the most incapable then God went to work. God’s work in me often did not result in the outcome I was hoping for. I should have found peace in trusting and obeying God, but often I did not.
We should not be surprised when things turn out badly after we fail to seek God’s guidance and take action based on our own best thinking. We also should not be surprised when we do our best to follow God and the results do not match our expectations. God sees far beyond us, which is why His wisdom is always the best. Continuing to pursue God’s wisdom means trusting that God is good and that His ways are always the best ways. It is amazing how easy it is to forget this, especially when following God produces results we do not expect and do not like.