Tuesday, August 16, 2011

divided kingdom

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.
2 Samuel 2:10

David's reign began with division. After the death of Saul, there was controversy for two years over who should be king in Israel. Most of the Israelites were persuaded to follow tradition and became subjects of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul. But the text is clear that really a general was the power behind this throne. Abner was the real force behind this succession (2 Samuel 2:8). What followed was a period of military skirmishes between Abner's army, and the troops loyal to David in Judah.

The account of this brief period prior to David's united reign is told to us through military history. It is as if the military archives were opened for the writer of 2 Samuel to research. Battles take place that create an inevitable shift of power to Judah. Abner may have been a general with political sensibilites, but his army was no match for the army of Judah commanded by Joab. Little by little, it became clear that the military strength resided with Judah and the army that fought with David. This brief civil war would eventually come to an end under the king that God had anointed for Israel.

I am sure that this was not the way David wanted to begin his rule. But the divisiveness in the nation led to this period of civil unrest. David was smart enough to let his premeire general lead the engagements. And eventually this strategy would be met with acceptance on all sides. But David would not ease into the throne of Israel. It would be fought for just as he had fought for his reputation as he defended Israel under Saul.

A divided kingdom was not what David would accept. This was the circumstance he faced, but he did not cause it. Abner led the opposition against David. David is caught in a position where another man's ambition for power is focused against him. And really Abner was opposing God first and foremost. David knew this. That is why Abner's plan was destined to fail miserably.

God would use the political machinations of a scheming general opposed to God's plan to eventually bring about the result of a unified Israel under David. God would defend the king. David trusted the call and purposes of God, even as he instructed Joab in his confrontations with the rebel general. God will work beyond human ambitions. He always has and always will!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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