Troublemaker

Sarah and I went to see Avengers: Infinity War the other Saturday. You’ve really got to feel for those super heroes. The action is relentless. It’s a classic Marvel film with humour, running, shooting and fighting not to mention super powers and special affects galore.

But every time the heroes win through, every time they solve a problem, every time they win a skirmish and just when you think they deserve a reprieve, the enemy comes at them, bigger badder and stronger than before.

It’s relentless.

Isn’t that always the way though? You get through one struggle, one trial and another problem comes your way.   Not only that, just when you feel like you’ve learnt self-control and you can withstand temptation, you are caught again and the temptation seems even more attractive this time.

Here in 2 Samuel, David has just dealt with one deadly enemy from within. He’s put down Absalom’s revolt. He is safe in Jerusalem and the news reaches him of another rebellion. So let’s take a look at what is happening.

  1. Relentless trouble for God’s King – A look at the text

V 1-2 Sheba’s rebellion

He is

–          A man of Belial -indiciates worthless, troublecauser

–          A Son of Bichri – someone linked to Saul’s household. However also a possible play on words -camels and stubbornness[1]

–          A Benjaminite

He calls the people to leave David and for the 10 tribes in the North to split away from the kingdom. He insists that they have no share in David’s inheritance.

V3 -interlude the Concubines.

David has returned to Jerusalem. There he has the concubines Absalom slept with looked after but, they are effectively prisoners now and he no longer sleeps with them. This is another reminder if we needed one of the ongoing consequences of his sin.

V 4-13 An assasination

– Amasa is sent to rally the army -but fails to come back in time so Abishai and Joab go to pursue the enemy. They stop off and assassinate Amasa.  You see, Amasa has replaced Joab as the commander in chief of David’s army. Joab and Abishai cannot stand that. They enjoy power and whenever their own power base is threatened, they react quickly to destroy their challengers. There’s a call to follow into battle(v11) but loyalty to David is explicitly tied to loyalty to Joab.[2]

I want to pick up on three mini-applications here:

–          How do we react when others are given positions of responsibility and opportunities to use their gifts and we feel overlooked? Do we seek to encourage and support them or are we jealous and spend our time and energy looking for an opportunity to get power and attention back to ourselves?

–          Can we end up demanding loyalty to us as proof of loyalty to Christ. Do we ever risk creating a culture of dependence where other believers rely on us to look after them spiritually and/or practically?

–          Are we able to spot false and bad leaders? Whenever someone is demanding loyalty to them it is not a good sign. There is one Lord of the church and one king of your heart, it is Jesus.

V14-32  The Siege of Abel.

A woman persuades Joab that if the city is spared she will make sure that Sheba is given up. His head thrown over the wall. Joab returns in peace. Note Deut 20:10, Joab should have sought peace terms with the city before attacking it. The woman is reminding him of the King’s responsibility to protect and deal rightly with the cities of Israel. The question of inheritance is at the forefront again. Now, the question is not about whether the people have a share in the king’s inheritance but how the king and his representative will care for the Lord’s inheritance

V23-24 -a Recording of the key people

Joab is restored as army chief though others are coming to te forefront and gaining power.

There is a similar list in 2 Samuel 8:15-18. The contrast here is first that the list no longer emphasises David as the ruler. The Expositor’s Commentary suggests this emphasises David’s weakened position. It is Joab who seems to hold power now.[3]

Firth observes:

“That his list of administrators no longer observes he ensured justice is … significant. Likewise, Yahweh is barely mentioned here since this chapter is more about politics and grasping power.”[4]

  1. Life Lessons for God’s People Today

The consequences of David’s sin is constant trouble for the kingdom.

  1. Our first lesson is that we live with the consequences of sin. There is ongoing spiritual warfare. We can never become complacent. John Owen said “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Are you still meeting with your home group for encouragement and prayer? Have you still got those website checks and guards on your computer? Are you still praying and seeking God’s protection and forgiveness daily?
  2. The motivation of a trouble-maker is the belief that they have no inheritance with God’s chosen king. They are outside of the covenant, they cannot see the great blessing of being with him. Watch out for temptation. Watch out for those who have their own motives and are quick to try and cause discontent.
  3. Our own sin will bring consequences. This is about discipline but also about the impact that decisions made now have for future generations (Exodus 20). This is about parents -how are you bringing up your children and church families – are we laying good foundations for the future?  Here we see the impact on the rest of God’s people around David too.

 

  1. Dependency in God’s true King – The Gospel hope here

David’s sin meant that his troubles stayed with him through-out his life. Adam’s sin means that all of God’s people must face trials and trouble through life.

Jesus is the King who has won a great and final victory. On the Cross he dealt with Sin, Satan and death. This means that whilst we face trouble and temptation in this life, it is only temporary.  What keeps you going through the relentless trouble of a super-heroes film? It’s the hope of a happy ending. At some point in this film or the next, evil will be defeated.

We have a greater hope. The troubles and trials we face are momentary. One day we will be with Jesus for ever and sin and suffering will cease.

What keeps us going now? It’s that better hope. What should I do when the attacks seem relentless? I need to cling harder onto Christ.

How do I do that?

  1. Pray. Tell God how you feel. Ask for his help
  2. Read. Through the Bible, God speaks to us. We need to be hearing him constantly through the battles of life.
  3. Seek fellowship -don’t try to face things on your own. Pray with others, tell them how you are feeling and where the struggles are. Encourage one another.
  4. Sing. What did David do? He wrote Psalms which we can sing today along with other songs of encouragement.

Conclusion

How do we keep going when troubles, trials and testing seem relentless?  In the NT we see that the call to spiritual warfare is always in the context of knowing that the battle is already won in Christ. For example, Romans 8 tells us to put to death fleshly desires but that’s in the context of knowing that “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and “We are more than conquerors.”

It is in Christ that we find refuge, security and strength for the fight. We face trials today knowing past grace – he died for us and future grace – he is coming again for us.

[1] Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 549.

[2] Firth, 2 Samuel, 497.

[3] Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 556.

[4] Firth, 2 Samuel, 500.

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