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Integrity & Promises

We are currently in the last part of chapter 3 as we study the book of 2 Samuel. And this week, as I was preparing for this message, I was just thinking about how long David had to wait for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Way back when David was just a young boy tending his father’s sheep – the prophet Samuel had anointed him as the King of Israel. But it would be a long, long road for David before that promise would finally come to fruition. David had to spend years serving as a commander in King Saul’s army, many more years fleeing as a fugitive from King Saul who was trying to kill him, and then even more years fighting in a civil war against the supporters of Saul after Saul’s death.

But in all that time – David never seemed to resist or resent God’s timeline. He never rushed to put himself in the position of King. He never tried to manipulate the circumstances in order to hurry God’s promise along! He just trusted that God would fulfill his promise in his own good time.

And I think that’s one of the character traits of David that I admire most! Even when he had clear and abundant opportunity to move himself closer to the throne of Israel (a position that was promised to Him by God!) – he never chose to sin against God by taking matters into his own hands. 

David even declared this when he spared Saul’s life back in 1 Samuel chapter 24 when Saul was hunting for him to kill him! David said to Saul…

9 Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? 10 This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord’s anointed one.’

1 Samuel 24:9-10

And this was a guiding principle for David – he would not lift his hand against King Saul. God had put Saul in power and David would wait patiently for God to remove him. And this also applied to Saul’s son, Ishbosheth as well. Actually, just a little further in this very chapter where David spared Saul’s life, we see that Saul asked David to show this same kindness to the rest of his family. Saul says to David in verse 19…

19 Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. 20 And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule. 21 Now swear to me by the Lord that when that happens you will not kill my family and destroy my line of descendants!”

22 So David promised this to Saul with an oath. 

1 Samuel 24:19-22a

So not only has David vowed never to harm the King – he has also vowed not to kill his descendants after him (as many kings would have done!) It was not uncommon back then for the new king to destroy the whole family and close friends of the old king – so they would never posse a threat to the kingdom. But David promised he would not do that. He would never lay a hand on Saul or his family – and he would just trust God with the outcome!

However, not everyone in David’s camp agreed with that policy! We’ve already mentioned in previous messages how there were several occasions when David’s men urged him kill Saul when he had the opportunity. 

And today we’re going to see, that even now with Saul dead, the people loyal to David – on more than one occasion – resorted to going behind David’s back to attack and destroy Saul’s family.

And actually, we already saw that happen last week – as David’s army commander Joab murdered Abner – who was Saul’s cousin and the commander of Israel’s armies. So we’re going to start today by looking at how David responses to that – and then we’ll look at yet another incident of David’s supporters harming the family of Saul – and how David responded to that. 

So just to give you a really quick summary of where we are, before we get into today’s passage: 

After the death of King Saul – the nation of Israel was split in it’s loyalties. The tribe of Judah followed David made him their king – while the other 11 tribes of Israel followed Saul’s son Ishbosheth and made him their king.

This lead to a civil war within Israel. David’s army was led by Joab and Ishbosheth’s army was led by Abner. Early on in this civil war, Abner killed Joab’s brother in battle – and so Joab has been seeking revenge ever since. 

As the war went on, David’s side was become stronger and Ishbosheth’s side was becoming weaker, and so Abner, seeing the writing on the wall, came to David and proposed a plan for peace – which it seems David accepted and their agreement effectively ended the war. 

But as it happened, Joab wasn’t there for this meeting, but he came into the city just as Abner was leaving. Joab was furious that David let Abner go in peace – and so Joab secretly called Abner back and met him at the city gates – as if he was going to speak to him privately – and Joab murdered Abner in revenge for his brother’s death.

Now this foolish decision by Joab really could have completely derailed this peace process! You can imagine if something like this happened in the middle east today! If the general of one army had gone to some peace talks and ended up murdered by the other general – that would totally put an end to any peace talks for a long, long time!

And so David has to figure out how to navigate this difficult situation he has on his hands. How does he preserve the peace that has just been established – and how does he deal with Joab? Well, let’s take a look. We’re in 2 Samuel chapter 3 – verse 28.

28 When David heard about it, he declared, “I vow by the Lord that I and my kingdom are forever innocent of this crime against Abner son of Ner. 29 Joab and his family are the guilty ones. May the family of Joab be cursed in every generation with a man who has open sores or leprosy or who walks on crutches or dies by the sword or begs for food!”

30 So Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because Abner had killed their brother Asahel at the battle of Gibeon.

31 Then David said to Joab and all those who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on burlap. Mourn for Abner.” And King David himself walked behind the procession to the grave. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king and all the people wept at his graveside. 33 Then the king sang this funeral song for Abner:

“Should Abner have died as fools die?

34 Your hands were not bound;
your feet were not chained.
No, you were murdered—
the victim of a wicked plot.”

All the people wept again for Abner. 35 David had refused to eat anything on the day of the funeral, and now everyone begged him to eat. But David had made a vow, saying, “May God strike me and even kill me if I eat anything before sundown.”

36 This pleased the people very much. In fact, everything the king did pleased them! 37 So everyone in Judah and all Israel understood that David was not responsible for Abner’s murder.

38 Then King David said to his officials, “Don’t you realize that a great commander has fallen today in Israel? 39 And even though I am the anointed king, these two sons of Zeruiah—Joab and Abishai—are too strong for me to control. So may the Lord repay these evil men for their evil deeds.”

2 Samuel 3:28-39

Now I don’t want to spend the whole sermon on these verses, but there’s just a couple things to point out before we move on to chapter 4. First of all, we can see that David makes sure that everyone knows that he was not the one who had plotted Abner’s death! This was not an act of war – this was murder – a murder that David had no part of!

And to further make this point, David arranges a state funeral for Abner – even though Abner was the general on the other side of this civil war, David honours him by mourning him, by burying him in David’s capital city – Hebron, by personally singing a song at his funeral, and by fasting in honour of him on the day of the funeral. David does all these things to show all of Israel that he had no part of this murder. He was not the type of King that was going to further his own kingdom by treachery and deception.

And of course, this was very pleasing to all the people! This was the kind of king they wanted! They wanted a king that was honourable and who had integrity! And David was that king. He had shown that – not only in this incident – but really, throughout his life! In all his dealings with Saul and in everything he did – David had established a pattern and reputation for being a man of integrity!

And isn’t that how you and I want to be known? Isn’t that the kind of reputation we want to have? Isn’t that the kind of person that we want to be? I’m sure we do. And I’m pretty sure that’s what God wants too. Proverbs 11:20 puts it pretty clearly…

The Lord detests people with crooked hearts,
but he delights in those with integrity.

Proverbs 11:20

Integrity is defined as “the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished” – in other words, there are no gaps, no holes, no two pieces that have become disconnected.

But sometimes that’s exactly what happens in our lives – our actions become disconnected from our words and beliefs. They are gaps or holes in our character! What we say we believe doesn’t always seem to line up with what we actually do.

So to be a person of integrity means that we constantly work to make sure we repair those gaps. It means we work hard to do what we say. That our actions line up with our words and our beliefs. And I know that we may not always do that perfectly – even David didn’t – but that’s what we need to strive for.

To be a man or woman of integrity – a person that God delights in! A person like David – not like Joab!

And that brings us to the second little point I want to bring out. verse 38 says…

38 Then King David said to his officials, “Don’t you realize that a great commander has fallen today in Israel? 39 And even though I am the anointed king, these two sons of Zeruiah—Joab and Abishai—are too strong for me to control. So may the Lord repay these evil men for their evil deeds.”

2 Samuel 3:38-39

It’s interesting that David refers to his own trusted army commander as an ‘evil man’ who had done an evil deed – he acknowledges in the verses prior to this that Abner was murdered – not just killed in war – he was murdered. 

David very clearly considers Joab to be guilt of murder – but yet, even though David was the king and probably the one person who could’ve executed judgement – David apparently did nothing to punish Joab or bring justice to this situation. He claims in verse 39 that Joab and his brother were too strong for David to control. He would just have to leave justice in the hands of God.

And I kinda wrestle with this statement by David. Was David really unable to execute judgment on Joab – or was this just an excuse to spare his highly skilled and highly valuable army commander? It seems that while David is quick to execute judgement on many people – including some folks that we’re just about to meet in the next chapter – when it comes to people close to him (like his army commander – and later on his own son), David seems very reluctant to act justly – and his inaction will end up costing him greatly. But we’ll talk more about that on another day.

For now, let’s keep going into chapter 4 – which reads like this:

When Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, heard about Abner’s death at Hebron, he lost all courage, and all Israel became paralyzed with fear. 2 Samuel 4:1

Now you’ll remember that Ishbosheth has always really just been a puppet king for Abner. Abner had been the one calling the shots – and so now with Abner dead – both Ishbosheth and all of Israel became paralyzed with fear! Already they had been losing ground against David – and with Abner gone now – they really began to lose all hope! But let’s keep reading:

2 Now there were two brothers, Baanah and Recab, who were captains of Ishbosheth’s raiding parties. They were sons of Rimmon, a member of the tribe of Benjamin who lived in Beeroth. The town of Beeroth is now part of Benjamin’s territory 3 because the original people of Beeroth fled to Gittaim, where they still live as foreigners.

2 Samuel 4:2-3

Now there are a lot of names and places in these two verses – but the key thing to remember in all this is that these two brothers Baanah and Recab are captains in Ishbosheth’s army – and they are from Ishbosheth’s own tribe – the tribe of Benjamin. They are trusted kinsmen.

But it’s at this point, that the story has a little footnote of explanation that doesn’t really seem have any relevance to our story! Verse 4 reads:

4 (Saul’s son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth, who was crippled as a child. He was five years old when the report came from Jezreel that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle. When the child’s nurse heard the news, she picked him up and fled. But as she hurried away, she dropped him, and he became crippled.)

2 Samuel 4:4

Now this information will certainly come into play a little later on in our study – chapter 9 I believe it is. But why now are we are introduced to this son of Jonathan who was crippled on the day that Saul & Jonathan were killed in battle? And this is all we read about Mephibosheth for now… Just this one little verse in the middle of chapter 4. There’s no further mention of him in this chapter – so why is this little footnote here?

It’s probably to show that there was only one other living relative of Saul at this time – and he couldn’t possibly take over as king because of both his age and his crippledness. I think the author is trying to emphasize that Ishbosheth really is the only remaining qualified person from Saul’s family who could rule.

So with that in mind, the story continues with Baanah and Recab. Verse 5.

5 One day Recab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon from Beeroth, went to Ishbosheth’s house around noon as he was taking his midday rest. 6 The doorkeeper, who had been sifting wheat, became drowsy and fell asleep. So Recab and Baanah slipped past her. 

2 Samuel 4:5-6

Now I’ll pause here for a minute because if you’re following along in a different translation, you may have read something fairly different. The NET for example, puts it this way:

5 Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite—Recab and Baanah—went at the hottest part of the day to the home of Ish Bosheth, as he was enjoying his midday rest. 6 They entered the house under the pretense of getting wheat…

2 Samuel 4:4-6a… NET

The idea here is that sometimes soldiers would be paid not only in silver or gold, but they would also be paid in wheat. And so here, that was their excuse for going into the house – to get paid their wages in wheat.

So it’s interesting that these two passages get translated fairly differently – one where the doorkeep falls asleep after sifting wheat – and the other where the men enter the house pretending that they are going to collect their wages in wheat. The original language isn’t too clear on what exactly happened, but regardless of the translation differences, the idea is clear that these men enter the house deceptively. They are somehow sneaking in with ill-intent – as we will see in the next verses:

7 They went into the house and found Ishbosheth sleeping on his bed. They struck and killed him and cut off his head. Then, taking his head with them, they fled across the Jordan Valley through the night. 8 When they arrived at Hebron, they presented Ishbosheth’s head to David. “Look!” they exclaimed to the king. “Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of your enemy Saul who tried to kill you. Today the Lord has given my lord the king revenge on Saul and his entire family!”

2 Samuel 4:7-8

It seems these two brothers – Recab and Baanah – had the same idea that Abner had – if Ishbosheth’s kingdom was going down, they wanted to be on David’s good side when that happened. And so they murdered their own king – brought his head to David – and offered it to him as if they were handing him the kingdom!

This sounds very much like the time that Amalekite brought King Saul’s crown and armbands to David after claiming that he had killed the mortally wounded Saul after his battle with the Philistines. That Amalekite thought he would surely be rewarded for clearing David’s path to the throne – just Recab and Baanah no doubt did as well.

We can see that they obviously thought they were doing David a favour – they say: ”Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of your enemy Saul who tried to kill you. Today the Lord has given my lord the king revenge on Saul and his entire family!” 

It’s clear that they didn’t really understand that David never considered Saul to be his enemy – nor did he ever want to take revenge against Saul’s family! David had vowed that he would never do that!

And so, David responded as we might expect from a man of integrity. verse 9

9 But David said to Recab and Baanah, “The Lord, who saves me from all my enemies, is my witness. 10 Someone once told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ thinking he was bringing me good news. But I seized him and killed him at Ziklag. That’s the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more should I reward evil men who have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed? Shouldn’t I hold you responsible for his blood and rid the earth of you?”

12 So David ordered his young men to kill them, and they did. They cut off their hands and feet and hung their bodies beside the pool in Hebron. Then they took Ishbosheth’s head and buried it in Abner’s tomb in Hebron.

2 Samuel 4:9-12

Upon the bold confession of these two men, David promptly carried out justice against them for their murderous act – putting them to death immediately.  This was the same ‘reward’ he gave to the Amalekite man who had killed Saul – and it probably should have been the reward given to Joab for murdering Abner. But as I mentioned earlier, David’s failure to act in that regard will end up costing him dearly later on.

But for now, David’s execution of these men again show him to be a man of integrity – that he was not someone who would reward deception and treachery. He would not reward others for doing what He vowed he himself would never do.

And as a result of all this, all of Israel acknowledge that God had chosen David to be their king. We read in chapter 5 now:

Then all the tribes of Israel went to David at Hebron and told him, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, when Saul was our king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the Lord told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be Israel’s leader.’”

3 So there at Hebron, King David made a covenant before the Lord with all the elders of Israel. And they anointed him king of Israel.

4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in all. 5 He had reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years and six months, and from Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.

2 Samuel 5:1-5

And we’ll pause here for today – with God’s promise to David finally being fulfilled all these years later! David is finally king over all of Israel. I’m sure to David – it seemed like it took forever! But David patiently waited and trusted God – and in His own good and perfect time, God’s promise came to pass.

And what a good reminder for us today! God’s promises will always come to pass. Sometimes it may seem like it takes forever… And there may be setback after setback – and we may be tempted to take matters into our own hands – but can I encourage you: Trust God. He is a God of complete integrity! He will always do what He says. We never have to doubt that.

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