Power Play

2 Samuel 3:1-22
1 There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.
2 And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel;
3 and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;
4 and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;
5 and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron.
6 While there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul.
7 Now Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. And Ish-bosheth said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?”
8 Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head of Judah? To this day I keep showing steadfast love to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers, and to his friends, and have not given you into the hand of David. And yet you charge me today with a fault concerning a woman.
9 God do so to Abner and more also, if I do not accomplish for David what the Lord has sworn to him,
10 to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to Beersheba.”
11 And Ish-bosheth could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him.
12 And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make your covenant with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you to bring over all Israel to you.”
13 And he said, “Good; I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you; that is, you shall not see my face unless you first bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to see my face.”
14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, for whom I paid the bridal price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.”
15 And Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish.
16 But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned.
17 And Abner conferred with the elders of Israel, saying, “For some time past you have been seeking David as king over you.
18 Now then bring it about, for the Lord has promised David, saying, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from the hand of all their enemies.’”
19 Abner also spoke to Benjamin. And then Abner went to tell David at Hebron all that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin thought good to do.
20 When Abner came with twenty men to David at Hebron, David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him.
21 And Abner said to David, “I will arise and go and will gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

One of the temptations that Satan offered up to Eve in the Garden was that of gaining personal power. (Genesis 3:5 says, “For God knows that when you eat of it [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God . . .) Thus began the human struggle for personal power. We are all guilty of this search at some level. And clearly, that search has its roots in sin.

As David ascends to the throne rather slowly, over the course of several years, there are a few intriguing side stories that come into view. One of them is highlighted here in 2 Samuel 3; the story of Abner’s rise and fall from power. As the story progresses, David’s strength grows by the day while Ish-bosheth grows weaker. While David gains wives [we’ll discuss this situation at a later time], children, and military victories, the descendant of Saul loses at every turn. In the midst of these battles we have Ish-bosheth’s general, Abner. He can see very plainly that his king is unable to truly rise to the position of leader. But, since the hereditary leader of Israel is Saul’s son, Abner gets him placed on the throne and seeks to be the power behind that throne. Lest we think that Abner has pure motives and wants nothing more than to serve the house of Saul, let’s look closely at some of the clues that betray his true feelings.

While Abner is instrumental in seeing Ish-bosheth placed on the throne, we can assume that it is a puppet regime from the start. Ish-bosheth is probably fairly young and was probably not trained as a leader at all. While Ish-bosheth calls Abner out for sleeping with Saul’s mistress, he is quickly frightened by Abner during the confrontation. (It was the practice that the harem of the dead king was the property of the new king.) In taking this woman to his bed, Abner is displaying his belief that the power of the kingdom actually belonged to him. Then, Abner turns on the king and threatens to make God’s promise of David’s kingship a reality. He is ready to switch sides, for David is the one who truly has the most power in this situation. Abner then goes to David and promises that he will deliver Israel into David’s hand assuming that he will then be granted the role of military leader in David’s kingdom. At this point, Ish-bosheth has been completely dismissed as a viable ruler as Abner appears to hand over what is his to deliver. He believes the power lies in his hands and his actions prove that belief.

There are many ways we can grab for power. The most obvious is of course the grab for political power. And as we are inundated with political commercials for the next 12 months, we see that played out on a daily basis in our culture. But most of us are not really a part of that scene. Instead we need to examine our own personal relationships, be they at work or at home. Are we guilty of grabbing for a power that doesn’t belong to us or for which we are not suited? The only true power in the universe is God’s; all others are mere illusion. Whenever you find yourself struggling to get the upper hand, remember the words of Satan to Eve, “you will be like God” and let that draw you up short. Perhaps simply living inside of the authority you’ve been given by God can be enough. Do that well and experience God’s pleasure.