I suppose the things we read in today’s chapter and the things we’ll read in next week’s chapter are the kind of the thing little boys like to read about. Certainly this is the kind of thing I liked to read about when I was a boy; and it was even better when it was on TV and you got to see everything. And who knows? Perhaps there are some little girls who like to read about these things as well; though I doubt it. What we have in this chapter and in next week’s chapter is a lot of blood and guts. We have the time when there were twelve men from one army and twelve men from another army and all at the same time they grab one another by the head and stab one another in the stomach. And then there’s this one man called Asahel who is chasing after Abner; and Asahel is faster and is catching up on Abner. But then he ends up dead when the butt of Abner’s spear pierces his belly. And the first verse of chapter 3 tells us that the war that was going on at that time — and this is a civil war so that Israelites are fighting against Israelites — this civil war lasted a long time. So, there’s more of the fighting in chapter 3 where we read how Joab — who was David’s commander and the brother of Asahel — kills Abner by stabbing him in the stomach.
So, there’s a lot of blood and guts, isn’t there? It might be appealing to little boys, but you might be a bit squeamish and you’d don’t like reading these things. But they’re here in the Bible, because — as I reminded you last week — this is all part of God’s great salvation plan to send his Son into the world to be the True and Final King who would save his people from their sin and misery and give them everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom. This is all part of God’s great salvation plan, because this chapter tells us three things about David and those three things also apply to the Lord Jesus. Firstly, David began to reign as king. Secondly, David invited the people of Jabesh-Gilead to enter his kingdom. And thirdly, David faced opposition and resistance. And David was a pattern for the one to come, because the Lord Jesus came into the world as our king. He proclaimed that the kingdom of God is near; and it was near because the King had come. And he calls on men and women and boys and girls to enter his kingdom. He did it in person when he was on the earth and he does it now through preachers who are sent out in his name to proclaim the good news and to call on sinners everywhere to repent and believe. And when the Lord Jesus was on the earth, he faced all kinds of opposition and resistance. And it’s been the same ever since, because while there are many who repent and believe, there are many others who refuse to repent and believe and they refuse to yield their lives to Christ.
So, what we read today is part of God’s great salvation plan, because what happened to David foreshadows what was going to happen to the Lord Jesus. And so, let’s study this passage together to see what it tells us about David and what it tells us about the Lord Jesus.
Verses 1 to 4a
And so, the first section is verses 1 to 4 which tell us that David began to reign. The background is, of course, what we read last week. David had defeated the Amalekites and he was back in Ziklag. Two days passed and then on the third day, this man appeared. He had come from the battlefield and he brought the news that the Philistines had beaten the Israelites and Saul and Jonathan were dead. David and his men mourned and wept and fasted for Saul and Jonathan and for the Israelites who had been killed. And David composed a funeral song to honour Saul and Jonathan, those mighty men who had fallen.
According to verse 1 of chapter 2, in the course of time, David enquired of the Lord. He wanted to know what he should do now. After all, the Lord had sent Samuel to David many years before to anoint David to be king of Israel and the Lord had clearly revealed to David that he would one day be king in place of Saul. So, Saul is dead. What should David do now? We don’t know how he enquired of the Lord or how he was able to discern God’s will. Presumably he used the Urim and Thummim which have been mentioned before: that device which the priest used in those days to determine God’s will. However, whatever he did to discern God’s will, the Lord revealed to him that he should go up to one of the towns of Judah. For a year and a half or so, he’d been living among the Philistines. But now it’s the right time to return to Israel. But which town should he go up to? ‘To Hebron’, the Lord replied. So David went up to Hebron with his two wives and with all his men and with their families. And they all settled in Hebron and the towns around it.
There’s perhaps some significance in the repeated use of the words ‘go up’. David asked: Shall I go up to one of the towns? The Lord replied: Go up. David asked: Where shall I go up? And after the Lord told him to go to Hebron, we’re told that David went up there. And the beginning of verse 3 can be translated, ‘David went up there with his men’. He’s going up to Hebron in order to be installed as king; and therefore the repeated use of the word ‘go up’ is referring to his ascension. A king ascends to the throne. And therefore David ascended to Hebron to begin his reign. And sure enough, according to verse 4, when he got to Hebron, the men of Judah anointed David king over the house of Judah. Now, he wasn’t yet king over all of Israel, but this was the beginning of his reign. This was the deposit guaranteeing what was to come, because in due course, he would become king not only of Judah, but of all Israel.
And David was the pattern for the one to come, because the Lord Jesus came into the world as our king. Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord announced that he was going to send a King to rule his people on his behalf. Then the angel announced to Mary that God would give her son the throne of David and he will reign for ever. The wise men, who followed the star, came looking for the new king who was born. When the Lord Jesus was baptised by John, God the Father anointed him, not with oil as David was anointed with oil, but with his Spirit; and so God set him apart to be his King on the earth. And when he began his public ministry, he announced that the kingdom of God is near. And, as I’ve said, it was near because the king had come. And by the things he did — casting out demons and healing the sick — he revealed that he was the king who had been sent by God to destroy the Devil and all his works and to deliver his people from their sin and misery. And after paying for our sins with his life, he was raised from the dead and he ascended to heaven, where he now rules over all things as King of Kings and Lord of lords. Just as David went up to Hebron and began to reign, so that Lord Jesus went up to heaven where he now rules over all things.
Verses 4b to 7
And from the second half of verse 4 to verse 7 we read that David invited the people of Jabesh-Gilead to enter his kingdom. We’re told in verse 4 that David was told that it was the men of that city who had buried Saul. Do you remember? At the beginning of Saul’s reign, he rescued the people of Jabesh-Gilead from the Ammonites. And presumably out of gratitude for what Saul had done for them, the men of that city travelled through the night after Saul had died in order to recover his body and the bodies of his sons which had been put on display by the Philistines. And they gave their remains a proper burial. And now someone has told David what the men of that city had done.
Now, it would be normal for new kings to begin their reign by getting rid of any potential rivals or opponents. And that meant getting rid of anyone who had demonstrated loyalty to the previous king, because it’s possible that they would one day rise up in rebellion against the new king out of loyalty for the old king. That’s what the kings of the nations would do. But David was not going to be that kind of king. So, instead of getting rid of the men of Jabesh-Gilead, instead of imprisoning them or exiling them or killing them, he invited them to come into his kingdom.
We read that he sent messengers to them to pronounce a blessing on them:
The Lord bless you for showing this kindness to your master by burying him.
So, instead of cursing them, he blessed them for their loyalty to Saul. And he hopes that the Lord will show them kindness and faithfulness. He wants the Lord to do them good. And he reassures them that he intends to show them kindness too because of what they did for Saul. So, just as they showed kindness to Saul, so he intends to show kindness to them and to do them good. They don’t need to be worried that he’s going to come and destroy them, because he only wants to do good to them.
And then he goes on to say to them that they need to be strong and brave, because Saul is dead. Saul, who once saved them, is dead; and David has been anointed as king. And what he’s saying to them is this: I’m now the king in place of Saul. And so, the loyalty you once showed to Saul, you should now show to me, because I’m God’s anointed king. And you’ll discover that I intend to do you good.
And so, that was his invitation to them. He was inviting them to accept him as their king.
And the Lord Jesus Christ, after he paid for our sins with his life, and after he was raised from the dead and after he ascended to heaven to reign over all, calls on men and women and boys and girls everywhere to come into his kingdom.
When he was on the earth, he announced that the time had come and the kingdom of God was near. Therefore repent and believe the good news. And he said ‘repent and believe the good news’ because that’s the way into his kingdom: it’s by turning from our old life of sin and rebellion and it’s by believing the good news that Jesus Christ has paid for our sins with his life to reconcile sinners to God. And so, think about the thief on the cross, who confessed his guilt and who asked the Lord to remember him when he came into his heavenly kingdom. Well, the Lord reassured him that though he was about to die, nevertheless that dying thief would be with the Lord Jesus in paradise. That thief on the cross was a sinner. And he must have done terrible things to have ended up being executed that day. He must have done terrible things. And yet, the Lord Jesus was willing to pardon his sins and to welcome him into his kingdom and to give him eternal life.
And the Lord Jesus continues to call sinners into his kingdom. He does it now through the preaching of his word by preachers sent in his name. And in his name, they proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, who paid for our sins with his life and who shed his blood to cleanse us of our guilt and who promises eternal life to all who repent and believe. And so, just as David said to the people of Jabesh-Gilead that he was king now in place of Saul and he was willing to do them good, therefore accept me as your king, so the Lord Jesus comes to us through the preaching of his word and he says to us: I’m the true king; and I’m willing to do you good. Therefore, accept me as your king.
Perhaps the people of Jabesh-Gilead expected David to make war on them or to hurt them in some way. And people today can misunderstand the Lord Jesus and they think that he will only make their life worse. They think to themselves that he’ll only take away the things I love and he’ll not give me anything in return. But no, the Lord Jesus is willing to do good to all those who come to him and believe in him.
He does us good by filling our lives with one spiritual blessing after another, including the forgiveness of our sins and adoption into God’s family and assurance of God’s love and peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Spirit. And he does us good by placing us in the church and surrounding us with other believers to support and help one another. And he does us good by promising to watch over us and to defend us against all his enemies; and he promises to keep us always. He does us good by reassuring us of the Father’s love and care, so that we don’t need to be anxious about anything. And he does us good by giving us the hope of the resurrection and everlasting life in that new and better world to come.
David reassured the people of Jabesh-Gilead that he intended to them them good. So, accept me as your king. And the Lord Jesus Christ promises to do good to all who repent and believe in his name. Therefore, he says, accept me as your king.
Verses 8 to 32
But, of course, there are many who oppose and resist the Lord Jesus, aren’t there? And what happened to David anticipated the way men and women and boys and girls resist the Lord Jesus. In verses 8 we read of this man, Abner, who was the commander of Saul’s army, and he’s not ready to submit to David. Instead he took Saul’s last remaining son and made him king over Israel. And according to verse 10, this son, called Ish-Bosheth, reigned over Israel for two years, whereas David reigned in Hebron over the house of Judah for seven and a half years. It’s not entirely clear, but it seems that David reigned as king over Judah for five years without any rivals. And then, after those first five years, Abner made Ish-Bosheth king over the remainder of Israel and he ruled for two years. Or perhaps it took Abner and Ish-Bosheth five years to establish his authority over Israel. And then, once his authority was established, he reigned for two years. In any case, Abner installed Saul’s son as a rival to David.
And in verses 12 to 17 we read of the time when Abner’s army went out against Joab’s army. Joab was the commander of David’s army. And Abner challenged Joab to a fight. But instead of an all-out battle, involving the whole of both armies, twelve men were chosen from each side to fight one another in pairs. And it was a case of ‘the winner takes all’. But it turns out there was no winner, because each man grabbed his opponent by the head at the same time and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side. They all fell down together.
And so, since there was no winner in that contest, there was an all-out battle between the two armies. And according to verse 17 the fighting was very fierce. But Abner and his men were defeated by David and his men.
Then in verses 18 to 23 we read about this pursuit. Joab, who was the commander of David’s army, had a brother called Asahel. And he was as fleet-footed as a gazelle, we’re told in verse 18. So, he was really fast. And he ran after Abner, who was trying to get away. And as Asahel caught up, Abner tried to persuade him to give up. Turn aside to the right or left. Take on someone else. Stop chasing me. Why should I strike you down? And you see, he’s worried that if he kills Asahel there will be bad blood between him and Joab and Joab will want to get revenge on Abner. And perhaps I’m spoiling things, but in chapter 3, that’s exactly what happens: Joab gets his revenge. So, Abner is trying to persuade Asahel to give up. But he won’t. And so, according to verse 23, Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach so that he died. Some of the commentators suggest he was only trying to knock Asahel down. However, others say that the butt of a spear was kept sharp and so, Abner knew precisely what he was doing. In any case, Asahel died.
And finally, in verses 24 to the end of the chapter, we read how the two armies faced one another once again. And Abner said to Joab:
Must the sword devour forever?
Joab answers that if it wasn’t for Abner, Joab and his men wouldn’t be pursuing them like this. But they blew the trumpet and gave up the battle for the time being and went home. David’s side lost 20 men whereas 360 of Abner’s men were killed. And though they gave up the battle for the time being, verse 1 of chapter 3 tells us that the war between them lasted a long time. Now, Abner could have accepted that David was the Lord’s anointed king. Ish-Bosheth could have accepted that David was the Lord’s anointed king. The rest of Israel could have accepted that David was the Lord’s anointed king. But instead of accepting him, they opposed and resisted David’s kingdom.
And in every generation there are those who oppose and resist the Lord Jesus Christ and they will not accept him as their king. Though all things were made through him in the beginning, though he sustains all things by his powerful word, though he came into the world as one of us to deliver us from our sin and misery by his life and death and resurrection, though he intends to do us good, and though he promises us everlasting life in the new and better world to come, nevertheless men and women and boys and girls say to themselves:
No, I will let him rule over me.
When he was on the earth, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were like that. And so, the Lord told the parable of the wicked tenants who saw the landlord’s son coming and they decided to kill him, because they knew that he would one day rule over them. And the Lord Jesus told that parable, because the Pharisees and the teachers of the law wanted to kill him for the very same reason: they did not want him to rule over them.
And it’s been the same ever since, because the Lord Jesus sends preachers into the world to call on people everywhere to accept Christ as their king and to repent and believe the good news, but they refuse. They will not give up their sins for Christ. And they will not believe in him as the only Saviour. They will not yield their lives to him and serve him as their King.
But here’s the thing. Verse 1 of chapter 3 tells us that though the war lasted a long time, the house of David grew stronger and stronger while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker. That David’s house grew stronger was inevitable, because hadn’t the Lord decreed that David would be king? And God has decreed the end of history and he has made clear that, in the end, the Lord Jesus will return as king over all to judge his enemies — all those who refused to repent and believe in him — and he will send them away to be punished for ever; but he will gather together his people — all who repented and trusted in him — and they will live with him and they will reign with him over the new heavens and earth.
And so, since that is the end of history, which the Lord God Almighty has decreed, and since that is the way it will end, then I say to you that if you have not done so already, then now is the time to accept Christ as your King. Turn from your life of sin and rebellion and confess your sins to God. And ask God to forgive you for all that you have done wrong for the sake of Christ who died for sinners. Ask him to forgive you and to give you the free gift of eternal life so that when Christ the King comes in glory, you will not be destroyed, but will receive everlasting life in the world to come. And while you wait for that day, ask the Lord to give you, not just forgiveness and the hope of everlasting life, but ask him to give you his Spirit to help to you love and serve Christ the King.