Why is it that although I’ve put my trust in Jesus I find that life s still messy and I still struggle with sin?”
This is a big question, and one that our passage helps us to answer.
God has sent Samuel to anoint David as king, however Saul continued as King, David as his rival had to go on the run. Now, Saul is dead and David has been crowned King but he still isn’t fully in charge. He has only been accepted by his own tribe, Judah and Abner, Saul’s general has crowned Ishbosheth as a puppet king. There is civil war and the consequences are mess, anarchy and murder.
Remember, David is what we call a type – he provides a model or picture -pointing forward to Christ’s reign. So today we can learn lessons about what it means to truly be under Christ’s rule and reign.
You see, David has shown that he values love, mercy, justice, compassion, faithfulness. You would expect his people to follow in his ways but they do not.
Here we see the mess, imperfection and chaos that comes because
- David is not yet fully in charge over the land and the people -his rule is contested and limited
- Even where he does reign -it is imperfect because he is human, fallen, flawed. So we have David’s sin and his weakness.
Things to See
- The damage caused by not living under the true King’s reign
There are four tragic stories here:
Abner (3:6-12)– He has been trying to keep control by resisting David. He is the true power behind Ishbosheth the puppet king. So, when Ishbosheth accuses him, he sees this as betrayal. His resentment leads to rebellion as he defects to David. He wants to prove himself as the true power broker and promises David that he can deliver the kingdom to him. But in fact, David will only receive the kingdom properly once Abner is out of the way. Workplaces, families, communities and sadly often churches have people like Abner who try to control, manipulate and bully. They decide the agenda. However, we all have something about Abner in us when we think we can negotiate with God and get salvation on our terms. We try to make deals like
– “You can have my Sunday mornings there wasn’t much happening then anyway.”
– “I’ll even do a quiet time at least in the summer when the mornings are light.”
– “I’m sorry but Fridays are mine and a no-go area for you. I know that TV programme isn’t helpful but I enjoy it too much.”
– “I will be checking in with you in a few years’ time to make sure that this arrangement has worked to my benefit.”
Joab – Warns David that Abner is a spy but is he watching out for David or settling his own scores? Joab uses deception to get Abner where he wants him and kills him. We are then told that the real reason he kills Abner is to get revenge for his brother’s death. David curses Joab their relationship is broken and sets out publicly to distance himself from his general Is Joab dealt with properly? However, in private he admits that he lacks the power to deal with him and his brother Abishai.
Michal (3:13-14)– Saul’s daughter and David’s first wife had been given to another man. Now David claims her back. This doesn’t look like it is about love does it? Rather, this is a way of David strengthening his ties to Saul’s household and his claim to the throne. Michal looks to be treated like property passed between men. This surely breeds resentment in her heart and we will see the tragic fulfilment of the consequences later. Note the way that when powerful people clash, others get hurt. Heed the challenge to men here, don’t treat your wives, girlfriends, other women as objects to possess, control or worse still pass around.
Ishbosheth. The puppet king meets a tragic and gruesome end. Killed in his bed by Racaab and Baanah as he snoozes. His head is cut off and delivered to David. David however insists that they should not have attacked him. This is not God’s way of bringing the kingdom to him. Ishbosheth is a tragic figure, exalted to the position of king but just a puppet to be n=manipulated. We think that we can master sin and control our idols but they master us.
The picture is poisonous, division, distrust, accusation, resentment, betrayal, death and destruction. Life outside of Christ’s rule and reign is also deadly and destructive.
We see this in our own lives. When we entertain sin, anger, lust, bitterness, it consumes us from the inside and destroys us. In fact, the Bible says that outside of Christ we are spiritually dead. Sin in the believer’s life is dangerous true, it hurts and cripples us in our walk with the Lord, it causes us to hurt others. It leads to broken friendships and divided homes.
But we also see this when churches are not listening to God through his word. When we don’t do that then we become selfish pursuing our own agendas leading to pride, boasting and rivalry as we saw in 1 Corinthians.
- The hope that comes when we trust in God to keep his promise in his way
Abner, Racaab and Baanah think that they can influence things. They can deliver the crown to David. David knows that it is God alone who will fulfil his promises. In fact, God is removing all rivals and pretenders to the throne, Abner the king maker and Ishbosheth the puppet king are dead. The only other claimant is Mephibosheth and he has fled and is now disabled. David is now without rival.
This is an important lesson throughout he Old Testament. We can have our own plans to engineer what we see as success but trusting God means that we let him accomplish his purposes in his way and his time.
God’s promise to us is
– That we are ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven at the Cross
– That he will build his church and establish his kingdom
– That Christ will return
Things to do
Submit to Christ as Lord and rightful king in your life
If I go to the doctor and ask him to treat an illness I’m suffering from, he may give me some instructions to follow: “You will need to take this medicine three times per day but you alos need to get fitter, change your diet, increase your exercise etc.” I can’t turn around and say to him “Sorry, I asked you to heal me not to boss me about.” I have to submit to him if I want to benefit from the treatment.
I cannot go to Jesus and say “Save me” without submitting to his Lordship. So how do I that? Well very simply, I entrust the whole of my life to him. This enables me to live in the Now and the Not yet because I am fully dependent on his grace.
So How do I live in the now and the not yet?
I keep finding it helpful to talk about past present and future grace.
– This means I remind myself of the objective truth that Christ died for me. I am saved by grace alone, justified through faith alone in Christ alone. My status is dependent on Christ’ s work not mine. Jesus’ promise is that those the Father has given to him he will not lose. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1)
– This is Piper’ s term. The point he makes by this is that I don’t just look back to the Cross and act in gratitude. There are still promises to hope for and so I am motivated and spurred forward by this promise that there is more to receive.
– Sticking in Romans, Romans 5 tells us that God is at work in present circumstances to produce hope through suffering, patience and endurance. We also see the promise of the revealing of the sons of glory in Romans 8.
– 1 John 3 tells us will be like Christ when we see him face to face.
– It is living between the two (past and future grace) that helps us to live now. I have assurance in what Christ has done, knowing his promise to complete the work he has started and aware that there still is work in progress (sanctification).
– I talk honestly to myself about the reality of life here in the now and the not yet. Part of being aware of temptation, sin and guilt is that we are now alive and alert to these things. An awakened conscience means we are awake to the struggle. This should provoke us to spiritual warfare and the putting to death of the flesh
– Regularly confess your sins 1 John 1:9
– Know that you are not alone – the Holy Spirit is in you
– Know that you are not alone you are part of the body. Don’t get disconnected from the family. Encourage one another, hear one another’s burdens
My wife is a teacher. She spends a lot of time every year warning her students that on the exam paper there will be questions on topics they’ve not covered. They should ignore those questions and answer on things they have been taught about. Every year a few students will answer the wrong questions! This sermon focuses on the Christian life but some of us will be trying to deal with the starting question about struggling with sin and guilt and we are like those students answering the wrong exam paper. You see, if you don’t know Jesus as saviour then you are dealing with a different question. You’ll end up hearing about a load of things to do and not do. You’ll be crushed by the legalism. So, before you do anything else, you need to get right with God and trust Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
For those of us who do know Jesus, there is the challenge. Am I living out the reality of his Lordship? Are there areas I have been challenged about. I know I’m not perfect, I know there is a present struggle. Take one thing that needs dealing with. The first step is to name it honestly for what it is, it is sin. Take time to confess it to him and ask for forgiveness. Share the challenge with another Christian and start to get some practical help to face it.
Finally, don’t let present struggles overwhelm you. Remember, Christ has saved you, it is his work. Look forward in hope to the day when you will be with him. Know that he is with you and at work in your life today.
 Note the question “Whose land is it anyway?” could be acknowledgement that David is the rightful king but also seems to carry overtones that the land is in his power to give. David must deal with him. See Youngblood, 1,2 Samuel (In Expositors Bible Commentary), 327.