And when he had removed him[Saul], he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’
Being a person after God’s own heart means we care about and do all God’s will. It means wanting what God wants and being active in glorifying God through doing His will.
Samuel had died. Saul and Jonathan had died. David had been anointed as the next king of Israel years earlier but he didn’t assume he should just march into Judah and take it, he sought God’s will. In 2 Samuel 2 we read about David’s becoming king. Verses 1-7 read,
After this David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” And he said, “To Hebron.” 2 So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3 And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron. 4 And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.
When they told David, “It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul,”5 David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead and said to them, “May you be blessed by the Lord, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord and buried him. 6 Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you. And I will do good to you because you have done this thing. 7 Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”
You see although Saul had made himself an enemy to David, David never became the king’s enemy. He remained loyal because he was faithful to the LORD. He trusted God and even through the hardship of so many years of living in hiding, running from constant death threats, and having to prove himself repeatedly he chose to remain steadfast in the LORD. He was even able to commend the men who had ensured Saul was properly buried. He honored Saul, because God had given him the title and job of king. God had anointed Saul and David always remembered that.
David did not have to assert himself to anyone as king, the men came to him and made him king. But some chose to forget who God had chosen and anointed. Some men, like Abner ignored God’s will and anoint whom he thought it would be. Remember who Abner was. He was he commander of Saul’s army who rather than stay awake and guard his king, had fallen asleep and left him open to being killed when David stole his spear and water jar and spared Saul life. Abner and the men of Israel who followed him judged by logic and themselves rather than seeking God’s will. Verses 8-11 describe it,
But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul's army, took Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim, 9 and he made him king over Gilead and the Ashurites and Jezreel and Ephraim and Benjamin and all Israel. 10 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. 11 And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.
It was not God’s will for Saul’s son Ish-bosheth to be king. He had anointed David not Ish-bosheth. Verses 12-21 in The Message describe what happened because of the discord and disunity of Israel following their own king rather than the LORD’s chosen.
12-13 One day Abner son of Ner set out from Mahanaim with the soldiers of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, headed for Gibeon. Joab son of Zeruiah, with David’s soldiers, also set out. They met at the Pool of Gibeon, Abner’s group on one side, Joab’s on the other.
14 Abner challenged Joab, “Put up your best fighters. Let’s see them do their stuff.”
Joab said, “Good! Let them go at it!”
15-16 So they lined up for the fight, twelve Benjaminites from the side of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve soldiers from David’s side. The men from each side grabbed their opponents’ heads and stabbed them with their daggers. They all fell dead—the whole bunch together. So, they called the place Slaughter Park. It’s right there at Gibeon.
17-19 The fighting went from bad to worse throughout the day. Abner and the men of Israel were beaten to a pulp by David’s men. The three sons of Zeruiah were present: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Asahel, as fast as a wild antelope on the open plain, chased Abner, staying hard on his heels.
20 Abner turned and said, “Is that you, Asahel?”
“It surely is,” he said.
21 Abner said, “Let up on me. Pick on someone you have a chance of beating and be content with those spoils!” But Asahel wouldn’t let up.
What began as a small sporting fight became a fierce battle. Abner continued to show his unworthiness for his position. And he tried to get Asahel to end the fight but he wouldn’t. Verses 22-28 read,
And Abner said again to Asahel, “Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?” 23 But he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died where he was. And all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still.
24 But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner. And as the sun was going down they came to the hill of Ammah, which lies before Giah on the way to the wilderness of Gibeon. 25 And the people of Benjamin gathered themselves together behind Abner and became one group and took their stand on the top of a hill.26 Then Abner called to Joab, “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?” 27 And Joab said, “As God lives, if you had not spoken, surely the men would not have given up the pursuit of their brothers until the morning.” 28 So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men stopped and pursued Israel no more, nor did they fight anymore.
Abner didn’t ask Joab to end the fight out of understanding God’s will or even caring about God’s will. He was losing and asked Joab to end the fight because he didn’t want to die. But Joab heard what Abner said and was convicted. God doesn’t want His children fighting one another. Judah would have slaughtered Israel, they were winning. But they stopped the pursuit. Verses 29-32 record the outcome of the battle.
And Abner and his men went all that night through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, and marching the whole morning, they came to Mahanaim. 30 Joab returned from the pursuit of Abner. And when he had gathered all the people together, there were missing from David's servants nineteen men besides Asahel. 31 But the servants of David had struck down of Benjamin 360 of Abner's men. 32 And they took up Asahel and buried him in the tomb of his father, which was at Bethlehem. And Joab and his men marched all night, and the day broke upon them at Hebron.
The war had begun though and it would be finished. One side fought for national pride and a king chosen by men. One side fought for God’s glory. 2 Samuel 3 continues the story. What happens when a country or a person fights for self is that the people involved think too much of themselves, consider unimportant things as important, and otherwise mess up their priorities. This happened in Israel. Abner was proud of how hard he worked to protect Israel and Ish-bosheth. He was envisioning Saul’s line continuing because of him and he wanted some glory and power for his efforts. He went into the harem and took a concubine for himself. But Ish-bosheth was too obsessed with the idea of being powerful and didn’t give Abner and regard. Verses 8-11 in The Message read,
Abner lost his temper with Ish-Bosheth, “Treat me like a dog, will you! Is this the thanks I get for sticking by the house of your father, Saul, and all his family and friends? I personally saved you from certain capture by David, and you make an issue out of my going to bed with a woman! What God promised David, I’ll help accomplish—transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and make David ruler over the whole country, both Israel and Judah, from Dan to Beersheba. If not, may God do his worst to me.”
11 Ish-Bosheth, cowed by Abner’s outburst, couldn’t say another word.
Abner could see that although he should have plenty of power, he would not be respected and would never have glory. He cared so much for himself that changing sides was just no big deal. Verses 12-16 read,
And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf,[a] 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.
Abner had to prove himself to David by bringing Michal back to him. He had to pay a price. He did even through the agony of the husband she had been given when she was taken from David. Abner wasted no time in using his power in Israel to bring David into his rightful place as king. He didn’t do it out of obedience to God. He did it out of selfishness and self-pride. But God used his schemes to bring about His plan, His will, and His glory. He even used Abner’s anger and pride to eventually bring about his conviction and repentance. According to David, Abner had become a prince and a great man (Verse 38).
Verses 17-21 in The Message read,
17-18 Abner got the elders of Israel together and said, “Only yesterday, it seems, you were looking for a way to make David your king. So do it—now! For God has given the go-ahead on David: ‘By my servant David’s hand, I’ll save my people Israel from the oppression of the Philistines and all their other enemies.’”
19 Abner took the Benjaminites aside and spoke to them. Then he went to Hebron for a private talk with David, telling him everything that Israel in general and Benjamin in particular were planning to do.
20 When Abner and the twenty men who were with him met with David in Hebron, David laid out a feast for them.
21 Abner then said, “I’m ready. Let me go now to rally everyone in Israel for my master, the king. They’ll make a treaty with you, authorizing you to rule them however you see fit.” Abner was sent off with David’s blessing.
David was God’s chosen king. Although it does not say that he inquired of The LORD, I have no doubt that he did, since that was what he did before all his big decisions. He was a man after God’s own heart; a man who did all God’s will. He knew it was God’s will that Abner do what he did. But not every man loyal to David always remembered that God had anointed David and so they should obey David wholeheartedly as if they were obeying God. Verses 26-30 describe Joab’s reaction to seeing Abner, the man responsible for his brother’s death go free.
When Joab came out from David's presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it. 27 And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother.28 Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 29 May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father's house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” 30 So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had put their brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon.
Joab and Abishai avenged their brother and murdered Abner. They didn’t do it for God’s glory but for Joab’s pride. Joab made the plan and he would have to pay for the assumptions he made based on his own egotism. David mourned Abner publicly and privately. It was clear to the entire nation that David had nothing to do with Abner’s death. He fasted and refused to eat until the day was over. Verse 36 reads,
And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people.
David understood God’s will because he actively pursued a relationship with God; he consistently asked God what his will was and what he would have him do. He cursed Joab and his descendants and said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father's house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” (Verses 28-30). And he said, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? And I was gentle today, though anointed king. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are more severe than I. The Lord repay the evildoer according to his wickedness!” (Verses 38-39).
Tomorrow we will continue to read about how the Lord brought about His will and made David king of all of Israel. Believer, do you consistently pursue God’s will or do you like me too often assume your own will is the same as God’s? Our will can look right. It can seem like it would be what God wants. To Joab, it seemed God would want Abner to pay for killing his brother, but it was not God’s will nor David’s. Remember this, being a person after God’s own heart means we actively seek God’s will, God’s kingdom, and God’s righteousness. When we do that, God will take care of everything (Matthew 6:33). He is a big God. He is can do it.