Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Life of David

Civil War

2 Samuel 1-5

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 instance.

"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 instances:

  • 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 were: murderers.

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 being disrespectful.

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, of course?"

"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 home?"

With all the courage and dignity I could muster, I replied: "Yes, and I am his wife, and this is his baby."

"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 come

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 question?
  • 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 out?
  • 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.

Previous     Home     Next