Civil War in Israel
Open Your Bible
2 Samuel 3:1-39, 2 Samuel 4:1-12, Psalm 30:11-12, Jeremiah 16:5-9
BY Guest Writer
Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 3:1-39, 2 Samuel 4:1-12, Psalm 30:11-12, Jeremiah 16:5-9
For me, when studying Old Testament books like 1 and 2 Samuel, it’s best to do so with an understanding of context, time, and culture. Although the vitriol on display in the public square today—where we’ve lost the art of respectful discussion and disagreement—is not much more pleasant, the violence and carnage of the civil war stories found in 2 Samuel are indeed gruesome.
We begin with the end in mind: “During the long war between the house of Saul and the house of David, David was growing stronger and the house of Saul was becoming weaker” (2 Samuel 3:1). From there, the writer unfolds the machinations and details of kingdom intrigue for us. There are birth announcements, power moves, peace agreements made and broken, deceptions, murders, people wanting the right thing but going about it the wrong way. And in the middle of the bloodthirsty ambition surrounding him, David is becoming a leader.
While he is not without shame, we do get to witness David’s growth as a man and king. Rather than the foolish mischief of those who would woo him towards calculated misdeeds to secure the throne, David is engaged with the ways of honor and justice, poetic lament and respect. These are things that honor his God and serve to build loyalty in his people: the right things, for the right reasons.
And have you noticed David’s patience and trust in God’s promise? God spoke to Samuel, instructing that the young boy David was His choice, the one to be anointed (1 Samuel 16). But now, many years later, he is a grown man and still waiting. He waited through Saul’s manic ranting and reign, spending one minute in Saul’s good graces, and the next dodging Saul’s attempts to kill him.
At one opportune moment, when David could have ended Saul’s dangerous obsession with him, he submissively clips his garment rather than taking his life. Rather than seizing the opportunity to impose his own moment, he learns the patience that comes from belonging to a faithfully sovereign, promise-keeping God. David knew he was God’s anointed one, and he rested in that promise.
Not once does he whine or complain. He doesn’t rehearse a martyr’s refrain or an entitled person’s manifesto. (I’d actually give him room to do any of those.) David has found an intimate place before the Lord where his soul rests and sings. Even in the midst of carnage and betrayal, David rests in knowing he was God’s anointed.
That’s my big takeaway from these verses, and it’s a big one. Though, I’m contextually without a monarchy and not bearing up under such gruesome circumstances as David’s. I’m just managing today and my own expectations—expectations of myself, people I love, opportunities I think should be mine (maybe a bit like Abner), and to be honest, my expectations of God. I’m afraid I’ve whined and complained out of a sense of entitlement. But I so want to live gracefully, daily trusting in the sovereignty of God’s faithfulness.
Thankfully, God’s promise-keeping did not end with David’s throne. The promised Messiah and Redeemer of the Davidic line has come (2 Samuel 3:18). When unrest shakes our souls, we can take refuge in our relationship with our Promise Keeper God. Abiding in His presence strengthens us so we can wait on Him, His perfect will, and His perfect timing.
Kim Thomas is a painter, author, and the Curate at The Village Chapel in Nashville, Tennessee, where she and husband Jim call home. Together they were called to start the church in February of 2001. Her undergrad studies were in art while her graduate degree is in theological studies. Kim has written 5 books and paints in the Japanese medium of Nihonga. The abstract work allows for a slow interaction between artist and materials. When asked how would you describe an ideal day… “Words and images without words—that’s a perfect day’s work.”