Category Archives: anxiety

2 Samuel 5

A conquering king

Discussion Question

What stops us from trusting in the LORD with all our heart? Why do we become impatient and anxious about the future?

Background (Context)

1 and 2 Samuel tell the story of how Israel received David as their king. The main characters, of course, include David, Saul and Samuel. The story is carried along by the nation of Israel’s number one enemy of the time: the Philistines. Samuel’s leadership is marked with success as “throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:13). The instruction from Samuel to the people of Israel was that Saul would deliver them from the oppression of the Philistines (1 Samuel 9:16) and yet in Chapters 10 to 13 we read of how Saul failed to do this because of his disobedience. The summary of Saul’s reign is described in 1 Samuel 14:52, “all the days of Saul there was bitter war with the Philistines.” Even before David is made king over all Israel, he demonstrates his ability to fight and defeat this enemy in Chapters 17 to 23. It is at the hand of the Philistines that king Saul is killed in battle when Israel were defeated, and when many Israelites abandoned their towns “the Philistines came and occupied them” (1 Samuel 31:7). The king in Israel was meant to be subject to Yahweh and bring peace and blessing to the nation of Israel. Saul had failed to be that king.

Since Saul’s death, David has demonstrated his patience and kindness toward all of Israel, waiting on the LORD to unite all the people of Israel under him. He seeks God’s will before acting. He acts in righteousness and judges justly. He weeps and leads the people in lamenting. We come now to see, when the people accept him as their king, will he be the king he promises to be. What about those Philistines?

Read 2 Samuel 5

5 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. 2 In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’ ”

3 When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.

4 David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

6 The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David.

8 On that day David had said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies.” That is why they say, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the palace.”

9 David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces  inward. 10 And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.

11 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David. 12 Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

13 After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him. 14 These are the names of the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16 Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet.

17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19 so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”

The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.”

20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim.  21 The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off.

22 Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 23 so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. 24 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 25 So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon  to Gezer.

What did you see? (Observation)

The first noteworthy thing about this chapter is that it acts as a resolution to the whole saga of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel 1-4. David is a worthy king and the people are ready to receive him. Once he reigns he proves himself to be the very leader they always needed. Not because he is great, but because the LORD is with him. So, the structure is not so much as a narrative with Beginning, Middle and End but scenes that reveal how he establishes a safe kingdom for Israel.

Structure

  • The tribes of Israel come to David their king (1-3)
  • David takes Jerusalem (and a bunch of concubines!) (4-16)
  • Round 1 against the Philistines (17-21)
  • Round 2 and the Philistines are gone (22-25)

The tribes of Israel came to David their king (1-3)

“All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron…” Clearly the whole entire people did not come to Hebron but the elders who represented all the tribes. But all the tribes coming to David is a very significant thing. They have come to their senses.

“We are your own flesh and blood.” The people recognise that they know David. He is one of them. And they have known about him for some time. The people used to sing songs about his victories even when Saul was king. He is not a stranger, a foreigner or a Johnny-come-lately. They have come to David who they know very well. His credentials, track record AND the word of the LORD support David. All the people are coming to David as ‘his body’ to call him their head.

“…the king made a covenant with them at Hebron…” The deal is done. David is now the King over all Israel. The covenant is not detailed here but the scope that the bible gives to this role is quite big on both parts. Deuteronomy 17 outlines what would happen when Israel gets a king. And the king is required to listen to the law of God and lead the people. It is through the king that the people are blessed. We’ll see later that David knows this.

The people have not been forced to bow to David. The people are not agreeing to make him king under duress. The patience of David who, for many years even while running away from Saul, has consistently trusted in the LORD to deliver and to bless has paid off.

David takes Jerusalem (and a bunch of concubines!) (4-16)

On the history of the Jebusites in the city of Jerusalem and Israel, see Joshua 15:63; Judges 1:8, 21 (also Joshua 10). The only other history of this city prior to David (which is not conclusive) is of another key figure named Melchizedek who was a priest of God and king of Salem in Genesis (which means peace). ‘Jer’ usually means foundation while Salem means peace. The link between Jerusalem and Salem is more of a whisper than of a solid link (although Psalm 76:2 seems unambiguous about the two being one). The book of Hebrews makes more out of Melchizedek’s priestliness than of his kingship. But Jerusalem seems like it was destined to become the city of David, the King of the LORD’s people.

Israel had not been successful in removing the original inhabitants from this city. David strikes to take a city which a) no other man has laid claim to in Israel to date and therefore it can be truly the king’s city (aside from it being part of the land prescribed for Benjamin), and b) because the Jebusites seem to have claimed that David could not take it even if they defend the city with blind and lame people. They sneer at Israel’s new king. They claimed that “David cannot get in here”. They claim that they are their weakest is too strong for God’s king. David proves them wrong.

“Because the LORD God Almighty was with him.” This is the important note in this story. We are seeing a triumphant king because he is working with the LORD God Almighty. Romans 8:31 – if God is for us, who can be against us?

“…Hiram king of Tyre…built a palace for David.” Even the nations around David were seeing this as a blessing and a kingdom to get behind. Tyre is a foreign nation in the north-west of Israel. In David’s reign and also Solomon’s, the nations around Israel, beyond their borders, look to Israel as a blessing. And also a nation to be feared (1 Chronicles 14:17).

“Then David knew…” David knew three things. 1) that the LORD had established this kingdom. 2) that David’s kingdom had been exalted in the sight of other nations – ie, shining, and 3) that it is for the sake of God’s people that this has been done. So, David may be the king, but God is blessing the people of Israel – not just David. And David knows this. He is to be a shepherd over the people and not a tyrant (5:2).

“David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem…” David is indeed God’s king over the people of God. His victories are showing how he inquires of the LORD and listens and obeys. And yet, the bible is very truthful about the failings of humans. While the story is overwhelmingly positive, the narrator gives us clues to suggest that even David will not mount to being the king that does everything right. The practice of many wives and concubines is tolerated by God in the Old Testament – never prescribed and often spoken negatively about – but it is tolerated for the moment. It will be the greatest symptom of Solomon’s downfall. See Deuteronomy 17:17 on the direct instruction from God to the future kings of Israel not to accumulate wives or wealth.

Round 1 against the Philistines (17-21)

“When the Philistines heard…” Philistines had been living among the towns of Israel sins they conquered Saul at the end of 1 Samuel. They are a present threat and an enemy living in their midst. See the background (context) section regarding the significance of these people as the constant threat to Israel. The people of God have been dwelling in the promised land since Joshua brought them across the Jordan and brought down Jericho. But Israel has been unable to completely remove foreigners from the land that God was giving them. It would be God’s king who will bring peace in the land and remove the enemy. This kind of language often disturbs Christians who wonder what to make of all this. Keep in mind that the gospel story is an historic one and at this stage in the story, the world is being taught that God calls a people who were not a people and blesses them. God never promised Israel that they would rule the world but that they would be a blessing to the world. The borders of Israel were set by God. The occupants of the land would submit to the rule of God or get out. Also, it is the Philistines who go to ‘search’ for David.

“Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the LORD…”  The Valley of Rephaim got its names from those who once lived there, the Rephaites. They were giants (Deut 2:20-21). The Septuagint (or LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) calls it ‘the valley of the giants or titans. This triggers a memory of David going up against a giant Philistine back in 1 Samuel 17. He had defeated Goliath in the name of the LORD in that day. And on this occasion, he still does not resort to his own strength thinking, ‘I’ve beaten them time and time again, I’ll just do it again now.’ Rather, he inquired of the LORD.

“So that place was called Baal Perazim.” Baal means lord or master and Perazim means breaking through or bursting forth. When David defeated the Philistines, he knew that it was because Yahweh, the LORD, had delivered them into his hands and David renamed the place in memory of what God had done there. David has inquired, listened, obeyed and remembered.

“David and his men carried [the Philistine idols] off.” The idols of the Philistines were useless to save them while the living God of Israel broke through and won the battle. He alone is mighty to save. Instead of the foreign gods carrying David and his men away, David and his men carry them off. Isaiah 46 gives a comical comparison between idols that do nothing – in fact they need people to do everything for them – with the living God who creates and delivers. Deuteronomy 7:5 commands Israel to conquer the enemy in the land and smash and burn the idols. 1 Chronicles 14:12 describes the same battle and informs us that David did just that.

Round 2 and the Philistines are gone (22-25)

Verses 22 to 25 provide a repeat performance. The Philistines try a second time to defeat David. We should note two things. Firstly, that David continues, despite his past record of winning, to inquire of the LORD. Secondly, that when David goes to battle in obedience to God, he is to listen for the sound of God’s army going out before him. The story is contrasting the living God of Israel against the fake and phony idols of the foreign nations. The Philistines were driven out of the land of Israel.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

We are seeing a foretaste of the Kingdom of God victorious to defeat the enemy. Fortresses that promise much (like wealth) and false gods provide no defense against the true and living God. The church is the body and Christ is the head. He has defeated the enemy and sat down at the right hand of God to reign. The head of God’s people is a shepherd who will rule for the good and blessing of God’s people.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Many kings that went after King David were poor shepherds of Israel. They lead people away from the living God and toward dead idols. But Jesus is the Son of the living God who leads his church to worship God in Spirit and in truth. The victory that Jesus brings is release from the enemy of sin and death. Freedom in Christ is eternal freedom.

Topic B: The battle is over before it begins. There is not much detail of the battles in this chapter. Three battles are fought, three victories won but the detail is mostly missing. Revelation 19:11-21 describes One riding who is named the Word of God and he is confronted with the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies to wage war against him. But, in a sentence, the beast is captured and the rest defeated by the words coming from the rider’s mouth. We are to remember that the King we serve is none other than the creator of heaven and earth. There is nothing and nobody greater than He. An even clearer image and appropriate cross-reference is that of Psalm 2, widely regarded as the Psalm used when consecrating a king in Israel.

Topic C: Inquiring of the LORD. Although David’s story is unique and points us first and foremost to Jesus and His kingdom, the model of turning to God is translatable to the church also. As Jesus came to teach and preach about the Kingdom of God he demonstrated his own dependance on turning to God in obedience to His will. He instructed his disciples to pray ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done’. Hebrews 5:7-10 describe Jesus as much more than a casual prayer. He bore his heart to God and acted in obedience. 

The head of the body prays and so ought the body of Christ. Love, joy, peace AND patience are fruit of the spirit. Time in prayer is not time wasted. Even when the anxiety of life looms on us, we should learn to turn to God in prayer and seek his face.

‘They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Saviour. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.” Psalm 24:5-6

2 Samuel 3:6-4:12

How the Kingdom of God grows

A note to leaders: This section covers two chapters. This would take too long to cover in detail in one study. A decision is needed to look at the whole two chapters superficially or one of three sections (scenes) in a little more detail. Each scene looks at the reaction of King David to three types of offerings to the King and how exactly does the House of David grow stronger and stronger (2 Sam 2:1). We see, in the first scene, a man who crosses over to the kingdom of David and peace is made between him and the king. In the second scene we see a loyal member of the king’s court who is damned because he does not understand the nature of the kingdom. And the third scene similarly sees judgment paid on those who think that good can come out of wicked means.

So, will you draw out those three lessons broadly and look at the whole two chapters? Or will you choose one of the three scenes and cover that as a group?

Discussion Question

It is better to do right and not to have than to do evil and have it all.

Background (Context)

Once king Saul had been killed in battle, David inquired of the LORD and was directed to go up to Horeb. He went up as the LORD had directed him and was anointed king over Judah. Saul’s cousin, Abner, placed a son of Saul (Ish-Bosheth) as king over “all Israel”. He initiated a division in the nation that went against the wishes of God. The battle between the house of David and the house of Saul lasted a long time but David’s house grew stronger. We enter Chapter 3 with the message that David’s kingdom will flourish but what will become of Abner and the kingdom under Ish-Bosheth?

Read 2 Samuel 3:6-4:12

6 During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul. 7 Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, “Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?”

8 Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said. So he answered, “Am I a dog’s head—on Judah’s side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! 9 May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath 10 and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 11 Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.

12 Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, “Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you.”

13 “Good,” said David. “I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.”

15 So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. 16 Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.

17 Abner conferred with the elders of Israel and said, “For some time you have wanted to make David your king. 18 Now do it! For the Lord promised David, ‘By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’ ”

19 Abner also spoke to the Benjamites in person. Then he went to Hebron to tell David everything that Israel and the whole tribe of Benjamin wanted to do. 20 When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast for him and his men. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

22 Just then David’s men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder. But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the soldiers with him arrived, he was told that Abner son of Ner had come to the king and that the king had sent him away and that he had gone in peace.

24 So Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he is gone! 25 You know Abner son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

28 Later, when David heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.”

30 (Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.)

31 Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.” King David himself walked behind the bier. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. All the people wept also.

33 The king sang this lament for Abner:
“Should Abner have died as the lawless die?
34 Your hands were not bound,
your feet were not fettered.
You fell as one falls before the wicked.”

And all the people wept over him again.

35 Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!”

36 All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. 37 So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner.

38 Then the king said to his men, “Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day? 39 And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!”

4 When Ish-Bosheth son of Saul heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost courage, and all Israel became alarmed. 2 Now Saul’s son had two men who were leaders of raiding bands. One was named Baanah and the other Rekab; they were sons of Rimmon the Beerothite from the tribe of Benjamin—Beeroth is considered part of Benjamin, 3 because the people of Beeroth fled to Gittaim and have resided there as foreigners to this day.

4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)

5 Now Rekab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest. 6 They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rekab and his brother Baanah slipped away.

7 They had gone into the house while he was lying on the bed in his bedroom. After they stabbed and killed him, they cut off his head. Taking it with them, they traveled all night by way of the Arabah. 8 They brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to kill you. This day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.”

9 David answered Rekab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 10 when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”

12 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

Scene 1: Crossing over to the kingdom of David (3:6-21)

  • Beginning: Abner is all about Abner (6)
  • Problem: The line drawn between Abner and Ish-Bosheth (7-11)
  • Quest: Abner comes to David (12-16)
  • Resolution: Abner in the Kingdom of David (17-20)
  • End: David and Abner at peace (21)

Scene 2: A wolf in sheep’s clothing (3:22-39

  • Beginning: A servant of David returns from battle (22)
  • Problem: Joab rejects the new peace agreement (23-27)
  • Quest: David rebukes Joab for his revenge (28-30)
  • Resolution: David teaches all the people to mourn (31-35)
  • End: Everything the King did pleased the people (36-39)

Scene 3: Using wicked means for a righteous kingdom (4:1-12)

  • Beginning: The news of Abner’s death reaches Ish-Bosheth (1)
  • Problem: The anxious king over and anxious nation (1)
  • Quest: Opportunists kill Ish-Bosheth and report to David (2-8)
  • Resolution: The King who trusts in the Lord to deliver (9-11)
  • End: Ish-Bosheth is buried with Abner (12)

Scene 1: Crossing over to the kingdom of David (3:6-21)

Beginning: Abner is all about Abner (6)

Notice how Ish-Bosheth isn’t even mentioned in this description. Abner is a political warrior aiming to position himself well in the land. He may not be king, but we’ll see that he regarded himself as good-as.

Problem: The line drawn between Abner and Ish-Bosheth (7-11)

In Abner’s position, he took one of Saul’s concubines. Saul was not longer alive of course. Ish-Bosheth’s question in Verse 7 seems reasonable except that it was a step too far for Abner. He had served Saul and had created this kingdom for Ish-Bosheth, who had done nothing. Why should Abner be denied this small thing? How dare Ish-Bosheth!

Abner decides to remove the kingdom from Ish-Bosheth and hand it to David. He even admits that David was promised the Kingdom by God (V9). He is likely to have been present with Saul when Saul declared such a thing (see 1 Samuel 24:20). In that same passage he would have noticed the kindness of David compared to the little he has gained from Ish-Bosheth.

Quest: Abner comes to David (12-16)

Abner came to David with the offer to bring Israel over to David (see how Abner feels he has the nation under his spell?). David accepts but quickly takes the lead in the agreement: “I will make an agreement with you.” He asks for his wife Michal to be returned to him but then doesn’t wait for Abner to organise it, but sends a message to Ish-Bosheth directly on the matter. Michal and David had loved one another and their marriage is a tragedy – all because of the wickedness of Saul.

Resolution: Abner in the Kingdom of David (17-20)

Abner goes around all of Israel speaking to the elders and calling them to make David their king. He is like an evangelist telling others of the goodness of coming to David. When he arrived back in Hebron, David sits him down for a feast that David had prepared. The once enemy of David was now being treated at his table.

End: David and Abner at peace (21)

Abner proposes to assemble all of the elders at once so they can set David as their king and David sends him away in peace. The future of David as the one king of Israel looks to be here. The strength of David’s house had been growing and it was about to be complete. The path? Through peace made between enemies.

Scene 2: A wolf in sheep’s clothing (3:22-39

Beginning: A servant of David returns from battle (22)

Joab returned to Hebron having fought in the fight for the House of David but he had missed the agreement and discussions make between David and Abner. If he had been there he would have had something else to say.

Problem: Joab rejects the new peace agreement (23-27)

Joab spoke his mind to David but we get no response from David. Later, David makes it clear to all of Israel that he did not betray Abner. Joab accuses Abner of being a lier and conspiring but it is Joab who kills Abner in a deceptive manner. Rather than accept the peace made, Joab strikes down Abner, both for the kingdom but also from revenge for his brother. Joab may be serving in the House of David but he does not have the same motives of David. What will David do when he hears what happened?

Quest: David rebukes Joab for his revenge (28-30)

David prays a curse on the family of Joab. They reflect all of the curses that God promises to those who do not obey his commands. David’s hope is that his kingdom would not be connected to Abner’s death in any way. David totally disapproves of what Joab did.

Resolution: David teaches all the people to mourn (31-35)

Notice the repetition in these verses of ‘all the people’. David directs the people and even Joab to mourn for the loss of Abner. The King leads the way in the mourning, it is not a show and the people followed his directions. The King’s lament asks if Abner really deserved to die like the wicked. The people try to ease the King out of mourning but he insists on grieving Abner completely.  

End: Everything the King did pleased the people (36-39)

‘All the people’ are convinced that David is a good king. Everything he did pleased them. Abner did not bring all Israel over to David in his life but ‘all the people’ present grew deeper in their loyalty to David. He proved again to be a good and righteous king.

In Verse 39, David gives us a snapshot of his kingdom. He has people in his kingdom who are too strong for him. If the kingdom is to be given entirely to David, he will not be able to restrain the likes of Joab, Abashai and Asahel. He calls on the LORD to protect and grow the kingdom.

Scene 3: Using wicked means for a righteous kingdom (4:1-12)

Beginning: The news of Abner’s death reaches Ish-Bosheth (1)

The scene changes from Hebron to the kingdom of Ish-Bosheth which, to this point, is ‘all Israel’ apparently. Abner had been killed before he was able to bring all of Israel to serve David as King. The son of Saul hears the bad news that Abner died in Hebron. Perhaps he did not hear of all the details and is left to wonder and worry about the future.

Problem: The anxious king over and anxious nation (1)

We are told that he lost courage and all Israel became alarmed. What do people do when anxiety and fear overtakes them? They fight or flee. It seems that Ish-Bosheth lost his courage and became weak. What will be the response of ‘all Israel’?

Quest: Opportunists kill Ish-Bosheth and report to David (2-8)

Rekab and Baanah are introduced in Verses 2-4 with a great deal of backstory and gap-filling. Mephibosheth is introduced here and we shall hear more about him later in the book.

As we read of what Rekab and Baanah do, two stories come to mind. The first is the most recent of Joab killing Abner and being cursed by the king for his treachery. The second is of the messenger at the beginning of the book who came to report the death of Saul (lying that he himself killed him) and was killed for his evil treatment of the LORD’s annointed. So, as readers, we must surely expect David to not like what they have done. And yet we still wonder if he will still be a righteous king.

Resolution: The King who trusts in the Lord to deliver (9-11)

David begins his response to these two men with the declaration that he has come to know that the living God is the one who delivers. He does not trust in the craftiness of men to do his bidding but in the deliverance of the LORD. He is a righteous King and a just judge.

End: Ish-Bosheth is buried with Abner (12)

The evil men were made a spectacle of. David making it clear once again that his kingdom is not growing through evil ways but growing by the providence of God. It is, after all, the LORD’s kingdom. David buries Ish-Bosheth with Abner – an show of kindness to the son of Saul.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The Kingdom of God welcomes those who turn to the King. It is a Kingdom of forgiveness and peace and will not grow through unrighteous means. The LORD will welcome enemies but reject those who do not understand what the Kingdom is about.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Rejoice that we rebels are welcomed to feast with The Lord Jesus in peace. The image of Abner eating a feast prepared for him by David, his once rival and then sent out to gather in the rest of the tribes of Israel is a glimpse of the church of Christ who are forgiven and sent out to tell all that Jesus is King and Saviour. Have you understood this grace offered to you?

Topic B: Unable to forgive. If forgiveness were easy then everybody would be doing it. Abner had been welcomed in and made peace with the Kingdom of David but Joab was unable to accept this change of heart. Joab was cursed by David for his failure to forgive and was later taught how to mourn for the death of his enemy. Forgiveness is hard, yes. It was not an easy thing for Christ to forgive you and me either. But it is the nature of the Kingdom of God and the King whom we serve.

Topic C: Accomplishing good through unrighteous means. Rekab and Baanah expected to receive blessings for bringing down the King’s enemy but they did it by unrighteous means. We are not driven to stab anyone in the name of Jesus but are there other ways that Christians can be tempted to expand the Kingdom through evil ways? Lying? Stealing? Measuring the church by number of people on seats rather than souls saved?

Luke 22:39-46

The Father’s Will

Discussion Question

Prayer is __________.

OR

Prayer is faith speaking. Discuss.

Background

Previously, Jesus had shared the Passover meal with his disciples. At that table sat Judas who had already consented to betraying Jesus, being tempted by Satan to do so, and Simon Peter whom Jesus declared would be attacked by Satan and will betray Jesus before dawn. The time of pleasant ministry and small verbal attacks are over. It is time for Jesus to be betrayed and it will happen this very night. Despite Jesus’ warnings to the disciples and his teachings to them about the kingdom of God, they have been dull in their understanding.

Read Luke 22:39-46

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

What did you see?

Structure

  • The plan to pray (39-40)
  • The crying Son (41-44)
  • The exhausted disciples (45-46)

The Plan to Pray (39-40)

“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives…” See Luke 21:37. At the end of his day in Jerusalem, Jesus would retire to the same location at the Mount of Olives. This is the hillside he travelled along when he arrived at the city. See John 18:2.

“…and his disciples followed him.” The way this sentence is constructed shows Jesus knowing where he is going next while the disciples are simply following. That is, they are not a band of brothers, like-minded and driven together – but a party with one leader, the one with the plan and the mission and the twelve men who followed behind. The previous episode illustrated how their minds were on a different path to Jesus’.

“On reaching the place…” Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32 note that the exact place is Gethsemane.

“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He tells them to use this time to pray and gives them the specific direction of praying to stand firm in the midst of temptation (not that temptation will be avoided but that they will not fall on account of it). Jesus had told them at the Lord’s Supper that Satan had asked to sift Simon and the others like wheat (22:31). Jesus told Simon that he was going to betray him that very night. They are instructed to pray to God to ‘deliver them from evil.’ This is the theme of this small passage. Praying to God to protect us and to surrender our wills to the will of the Father.

The Crying Son (41-44)

“He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them…” The withdrawing suggests an emotional ‘pulling away’ (see Acts 21:1 which uses the same Greek word for ‘tearing oneself away’). The distance of a stone’s throw adds to the emotion picture of the passage.

“…knelt down and prayed…” Jesus had instructed them to do the same and immediately proceeded to do it himself. If prayer was what was needed then pray is what he did. It’s hard to know what to make of the detail that he knelt rather than stood or even just to note that he prayed without describing his position. Common practice was apparently to stand while praying. I’m not sure about that. Perhaps it is best to stick to the narrative and have our minds picturing the scene of Jesus pulling himself away from his friends to spend time with his Father; to position himself a few metres away; and to kneel down in humility. The Son of God is on his own, in the quiet of the night, knelt down and ready to speak to the Father.

“Father, if you are willing…” The Lord’s prayer contained the your will be done element as well as the deliver us from evil. It is a grand prayer that, when meditated on, provides all the ingredients of a faithful mind and life – aligning our wills with the Father’s will. Jesus called the God whom he prayed to Father. We pick up our language of the Trinity from verses like this. Who did Jesus pray to? God of course! This God whom he prayed to, he called Father. Jesus is also in submission to the Father. He demonstrates through his prayer that the will of the Father is paramount. If the Father is willing… When we pray, we discuss what we desire and ask if the Father is willing to allow or fulfill our request. We also surrender our expectations in order to grow in our understanding of what He wills.

“…take this cup from me…” This is a profound prayer from Jesus! The Father and the Son had a plan for salvation from the beginning and the Son entered the world knowing what this plan was. He had described on a number of occasions to the disciples what the plan was (Luke 18:33; 24:6-7). He knew the Father’s will and yet spoke honestly to the Father about it. Now, what is the cup? The closest imagery to flesh this out is what Jesus demonstrated at the last supper only a few verses earlier. Luke 22:17-20. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Jeremiah 25:15-38 (esp. 15-29) uses the cup filled with wine as an image of God’s wrath that must be drunk. It is His wrath raged against the nations of the world, on all who live on the earth to receive punishment (see also Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17-22; . The two images of the cup of wrath and the poured out blood combine to provide for us a cup of mercy because the Son was willing to drink of it on our behalf. Note also that Jesus does not have a death wish as if this is going to be fun for him.

“…yet not my will but yours be done.” As alluded to before, what an amazing model of prayer for us. A rebellious heart may choose to run away from responsibility or consequences and hide until the storm dies down. A godly person will talk to God about what is weighing them down, ask for help and conclude to do what must be done. Tired of having not enough money? Talk to God about that but conclude that His will be done. Is there a health issue that you are facing. God can remove that for you but it may not be his will. Let His will be done. Is there a dilemma that you have – a decision that needs to be made – ask God for the answer! Know that His answer may be clear or it may be that you need to continue in prayer over the matter. Perhaps you already know what you need to do but just wish that there was another way? The examples of prayer can go on. The point though is that it is God’s will that is excellent and we ought to be growing toward loving it always.

“An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Clearly the will of the Father was not to take the cup from him – but He was willing to send help to get Jesus through the night.

“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Note the relationship between his physical, spiritual and emotional being. We have noticed briefly the relationship between the Son and the Father – the Son being submissive to the Father. Now we note the physical realm that Jesus existed in during his ministry here on earth. He was in physical pain, not from the sword or something else, but through the torture of having to face the outcomes of tomorrow. This was obviously more than any human has ever had to face. More than facing the wrath of God – he knew it was coming! His response? To pray even more earnestly than before! The strength of his faith ensured that he would not give up on prayer the minute things got hard. Prayer is a powerful resource that we have to centre our minds on the things of God and to speak with him about them. Our weaknesses and our hurts are shared with God. Our struggle to walk the path is shared with him. We keep talking especially in the thick of temptation. Hebrews 5:7ff alludes to prayers such as this one of Jesus that helped him to stay the path for the sake of those who would trust in him.

“…and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke has used very few words in this entire passage to paint the picture of Jesus’ struggle. Here he uses a simile to describe the anguish (and anxiety?) that produced sweat for Jesus. It is remarkable enough that his prayer session produced sweat.  We need not believe that the sweat was actually mixed with blood but had the weight and consistency of blood. Trust a physician to use an analogy like that (Colossians 4:14). Some manuscripts do not include verses 43 and 44, most likely because it is unique to Luke’s description of events and so scribes may have omitted this.

The Exhausted Disciples (45-46)

“When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples…” The passage has a clear focus on prayer as it begins and ends with Jesus speaking to the disciples on their need to pray and centres with Jesus’ prayer in the middle. Verse 45 is the reverse of Verse 41.

“…he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow.” We are not told weather they prayed at all or not but that they did not have the endurance like Jesus – perhaps they did not last long at all! But we are told that their sleep was more than laziness, it was brought on by emotional fatigue! Was it sorrow brought on by their knowledge of temptation at hand (similar to Jesus) or was it brought on by distress of looking and watching Jesus in distress? Either way, the garden that night was filled with very intense emotion.

“Why are you sleeping?… Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” The story returns to where it began – the call to pray for protection from sin.

What did we learn?

Prayer is the right response to distress and sorrow. The weapon to overcome temptation is not will power, but prayer. It is an act of faith as we speak honestly about our desires and wants and bring them submissively before the Father who is able to do anything He wills. Jesus carried such anguish leading up to the cross which was exercised with prayer and was responded to with care from the Father. The disciples demonstrate humanities weakness.

Now what?

Topic A: Bringing it all to the Father in prayer. It is rare to find a real prayer warrior. Someone whose instinct is to take things to God in prayer and to wrestle with him in the things that need talking about. Jesus demonstrated, in his perfect example of being human, that prayer is essential. He prayed regularly and he instructed his disciples here that when things are getting ugly, the best thing to do is to pray. Notice that when he found them exhausted, he didn’t say, “oh good on you for taking care of yourselves.” He said, “wake up and pray!” Prayer is the right and loving thing to do when joy is in our hearts. Prayer is the faithful response to stress and trouble. It is the greatest tool that we have in response to temptation.

Topic B: Making prayer a habit. Given Jesus’ own dependance on the Father active in praying, how can we foster a genuine habit of praying? It would be foolish to leave all of our praying up to spontaneity. It would be foolish to assume that making something a habit equates to making it a duty. If dependance on God is what we need, then we need a daily dose of conversing with him. The Lord’s prayer has a daily flavour to it. Prayer is not about tickling God’s ear but about expressing our faith in him through habitually meeting with Him. Discuss what has been some wins or failures with your group on trying to make prayer a daily love. Have lists helped? Has routine been good? Some people associate a time of day or an activity with prayer. Perhaps abstaining from something (like TV or Facebook) until time with God has occurred.

Topic C: The cup that we do not have to drink. Jesus was in anguish over the looming event of the cross. It has been the will of the Father and of the obedient Son to propitiate (expend God’s wrath) on Jesus. We can meditate on what the cup of God’s wrath may be like but we will never ever have to experience it ourselves if we put our trust in Christ and his blood poured out on our behalf. Of course, if we ignore this momentous gift of grace, then where else can we go to avoid drinking this cup ourselves? Perhaps as we consider the topic of prayer, we can equate a praying life with a faithful life lived in response to the price that has been paid for you and me. Not willing to drink the cup yourself? Let’s run to God in prayer of thankfulness and ask Him for all wisdom to live humble and faithful lives.