In a series of events which bear
a striking resemblance to the American Civil War, David eventually becomes king
of a united Israel with his throne at Jerusalem. This establishes Jerusalem as
the city in which the Temple to God's Name (prophesied 500 years earlier) will
be built. This progression to the throne is not an easy one. David spends
over seven years as king - in Hebron. He is king only of Judah, and from this
division will later arise the division into two kingdoms under his grandson.
The divisions in our own land are still with us almost 150 years after the
event. The parallels are rather striking, and we shall be using them to
illustrate some of the lessons learned. David is to be king over a united
Israel; if so, during the civil war he must so behave that there will be a
united Israel to be king over. We shall see how he does it, and perhaps learn
a bit about handling our own disputes at the same time.
Honor during the conflict
A story is told about Ulysses S.
Grant. He rarely lost his temper, but another general recalled one such
"One day on the march he
came across a straggler who had stopped at a house and assaulted a woman. The
General sprang from his horse, seized a musket from the hands of a soldier, and
struck the culprit over the head with it, sending him sprawling to the
ground." It is said that such crime was rare in the Civil War, but
whenever Grant encountered it, he showed no mercy to the culprit.
Grant had a passion for
justice. David shows us a similar passion in these chapters in two
- In dealing with the Amalekite
who claimed to have killed Saul, David could have praised him for ridding
David of an enemy. Instead, David chose to see this as killing the Lord's
anointed. (Note how this passion will help David later on - respect for
the Lord's Anointed includes him!)
- Even more so we see this
passion at the execution of the murderers of Ishbosheth. These men
thought they were doing David a favor by assassinating his rival, Saul's
son, and bringing his head to David. David named them for what they
Here there is an example for
us. When we are involved in family feuds, do we seek justice? Even when such
justice seems at odds with our own faction in the feud? It is tempting to seek
justice only when it benefits us. But remember, someday the feud will be
over. The just will still be the just, and honored for it.
In all this we see a reverence
for the authorities that God has set up. God provided the anointing. In our
own family feuds, should we not also respect that which God has provided? One
of the secrets my own father taught me was how to disagree with him without
Willingness to sacrifice
for what is right
David's forces are led by
Joab; Ishbosheth's by Abner. When Abner decides to betray his king, David
brings him into the camp, feasts him and his men, and makes an agreement with
him. This seems to be a contradiction of David's character, but consider that
by this agreement the war would be ended - and the two sides reconciled. It is
that reconciliation that David seeks.
But not without righteousness.
David - and his wife Michal - have been wronged. The price of this agreement
is the acknowledgment of that. Michal is to be taken from her husband (who is
rather unceremoniously told to go home and cry there) and returned to David.
This stroke unites the house of David with the house of Saul again, and also
proclaims the restoration of righteousness. David will pay a great price for
this when Joab murders Abner - but because all can see that he made the
agreement in righteousness, sacrificing material gain but not honor, even that
murder does not disrupt the process of reconciliation.
So often we are so concerned with
getting our way, and soothing our feelings, that we forget righteousness. When
we argue, we want to win. When the argument leads to the counselor's office,
the first question is almost always, "Tell him/her that I'm right."
Often, we must choose between being right and winning. God honors those who
choose wisely. Listen to a story about Robert E. Lee:
At the close of the Civil War,
stockholders of the infamous Louisiana Lottery, approached General Robert E.
Lee and tendered him the presidency of the company. Lee was without position,
property, or income, but regarded this offer as the gain of oppression, and on
the ground that he did not understand the business and did not care to learn
it, he modestly declined the proposition. They then said, "No experience
is needed. We know how to run the business. We want you as president for the
influence of your name. Remember the salary is twenty-five thousand dollars a
year." Lee arose and buttoned his old gray coat over his manly breast and
replied, "Gentlemen, my home at Arlington Heights is gone, I am a poor
man, and my people are in need. My name and influence are all I have left, and
they are not for sale at any price." Rather than receive the gain of
oppression, he taught the young men of the South the principles of right living
at a salary of one thousand dollars a year.
Dealing with your enemies
during the conflict - and reconciliation after
It is extremely noteworthy that
David's favor often rested on those who had been most loyal to Saul. Lincoln
had that same characteristic - he valued those who were loyal and trustworthy,
whether they were on the Union side or not. One night a young lady came to
Lincoln in the company of some politically powerful friends, seeking a pass to
visit her brother who was a prisoner of war. Her friends warned her not to
reveal her loyalty to the Southern cause. Lincoln asked, "You are loyal,
"Yes, loyal to the heart's
core - to Virginia."
The president said not another
word, but wrote out this pass:
"Permit the bearer, Miss
Neilson, to pass in and make inquiries about her brother; she is an honest girl
and can be trusted."
David does much the same thing
for the men of Jabesh-Gilead, who buried Saul and Jonathan. He rewards them
for their loyalty. Richard the Lionheart rewarded his chief foe, John the
Marshal, with the regency - figuring that if he was loyal to Henry II, he would
be loyal to Richard as well. He was. By such measures do we reach out and
heal the wounds of civil strife. It would be well to examine our own conduct
in this, and see how we measure up.
Heartfelt sympathy for others.
LaSalle Corbell Pickett, the wife
of Confederate General George Pickett (Pickett's charge at Gettysburg) relates
this story about the fall of Richmond:
The day after the fire, there was
a sharp rap at the door. The city was full of Yankees, and my environment had
not taught me to love them. The fate of other cities had awakened my fears for
Richmond. With my baby on my arm I opened the door and looked up at a tall, gaunt
sad-faced man in ill-fitting clothes. He asked, "Is this George Pickett's
With all the courage and dignity
I could muster, I replied: "Yes, and I am his wife, and this is his
"I am Abraham Lincoln"
"The president!" I
gasped. … "No; Abraham Lincoln, George's old friend."
(Lincoln had been instrumental in
getting Pickett an appointment to West Point.) Lincoln was worried about the
family; he came in person to see if things were all right.
Recognition that healing must
So often we go on like the feud
must continue forever. It is not so. All wars come to an end, and we must
realize (as my father told me) that the war is not over when the battle is
won. The war is over when your enemy is your friend.
David shows us that in his lament
for Abner. Joab murders him - there is no other way to put it - and the
politics are such that David must not start the blood bath again. But he does
the best he can. He becomes the chief mourner at Abner's funeral. He calls
down a curse on the house of Joab for this deed. He proclaims that he is
weakened by his death.
Israel sees, and approves. It is
a gesture of healing. It would have been easy enough to have seen Abner (and
Joab) for what they were - opportunists looking to wind up on the winning
side. But David chose not to do that.
"With malice toward none,
and charity toward all…" said Lincoln. There's a lesson in that.
Relationship to God
Underlying the honor during the
conflict and the care for one's enemies is one fact: a relationship to God.
It is the key to understanding everything that David does during this time.
- David acts out of a sense of
responsibility to God. He knows that God has anointed him; all that he
does is now undergirded with the question, "What does God want?"
I would wonder aloud: how often do we, in our conflicts, ask the same
- David does not just meditate on
this. He inquires directly of the Lord. His continuing practice is to
ask God what to do, and he does this more than once. How many of us think
to do this - only when we're in trouble so deep we can't see our own way
- David trusts God for his
future. This period in David's life is over seven years long. During
that time David is king - in Hebron. Not until he takes Jerusalem does he
become king indeed. But the lessons learned in this time will serve him
well in ruling this fractious kingdom.
We might well ask ourselves these
same questions. Even if your conflict is only that between husband and wife,
you could ask:
- What does God want? Is my
"winning" so important that He must lose?
- Have I inquired of the Lord -
or am I just shooting my mouth off?
- Am I trusting God for my future
- or trying to make it on my own?
Good questions - for king of
Israel or king of the house.